Enhancing the natural landscape and aesthetic of Darras Hall a high quality hardwood screen draped around a simple linear concrete structure borrows the natural rhythm and material of the surrounding woodland.
Situated towards the front of its long, narrow plot, this two-storey house has a conventional, rectangular footprint upon which a precast concrete structure, with large triple-glazed windows at each end of the building and a monopitch zinc roof has been constructed.
The plot sizes and ratios on Darras Hall estate are strictly controlled and, with by-laws designed to preserve open spaces and prevent industry or commercial buildings being constructed in the village. Most residents live in original 1960s or 70s houses or have bought a plot with the intention of replacing the existing dwelling with a new home. The owners of Edge Hill opted for the latter course and, as a result, now have an extraordinarily bold private family home that could hardly be more different from its predecessor on the site.
The way in which thermally modified timber has been used in the construction of this house is what makes it stand out. A wrap-around concertina of frames fabricated from thermally modified hardwood extends the entire length of the building and finds full expression in it’s interior: a glass door in a double-height transparent screen on the west side of the front elevation leads into a cloister-like, grand corridor and an uninterrupted view to, and through, an equivalent glazed portal at the other end of the house to the extensive landscaped garden beyond. The rhythmic timber frames sits on a continuous precast concrete plinth on the house’s west side, with the spaces between the ribs open to light and views into the side garden.
At head-height level, the ribs increase in depth and the spaces between are boarded rather than glazed to give thickness to the wall, before folding to form the roof structure over the wide, cloistered passage. Fenestration appears again between the, now horizontal, ribs to bring light deep into the house. The effect is striking: the play of light and shade in the long hallway brings an ever-changing richness to the clean, elegant lines of the building’s modernist interior. The relationship between the thermally modified, straightgrained and knot-free hardwood and the white plaster walls is symbiotic and one in which masterly craftsmanship has brought this highly restrained palette of materials into beautiful expression.
Most examples of thermally modified timber begin life as softwoods or non-durable hardwoods, with the heat process transforming them into hard, durable materials. As well as using domestically grown softwoods and hardwoods, the European timber market also imports a wide range of hardwoods from sustainably managed forests on other continents for which new or alternative uses are continually sought. Modern timber engineering and modification processes are thus increasingly being applied to non- or moderately-durable species from this extensive resource to develop new, high added value products for use in the construction sector.
At Edge Hill, thermally modified hardwood - Natural Cladding® manufactured from non-durable Obeche from west Africa has been used, the process has transformed the highest of the species’ three grades— Ayous—into a highly durable material that has outstanding levels of stability.
RIBA North East Project of the Year Award 2016
RIBA North East Client of the Year Award 2016
SuHuHa; The Modern Timber House in the UK, chapter 4
Take a closer look at modified wood.
Find out how to specify modified wood.
Images: Colin Harris / Suhuha