Old Bearhurst sits within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (AONB) in East Sussex’s Upper Rother Valley. The brief for the extension to the 200 year old oast house and barn that had previously been converted to dwelling use was nothing if not ambitious: the architects were required to respect the old buildings and, in doing so, to ‘rediscover their integrity’ when forming a new annex to them; to invest the remodelled home with character and personality; and to take advantage of the views across the valley to the south and to the villages of Burwash and Burwash Weald that are visible on the ridge.
Not unusual requirements, perhaps but the difference here lay in how to marry a large modern extension to the strong agricultural forms of the oast house and barn, traditional working buildings synonymous with this part of England.
The project as carried out has two distinct elements: one being the original building with its oast and roundels, and the second being the lower extension, with the contrast between the pair expressed through the articulation of form and in the materials. In plan terms, the large extension is located over the footprint of removed outbuildings and is slightly sunk into into the ground in deference to the repaired and sensitively upgraded historic structures.
The sculptural geometries of the addition have been give three-dimensional form by the use of structural insulated panels (SIPs), the technology chosen to deliver a thermally efficient, wellsealed envelope and clad with a rainscreen of Platowood® Frake´ boards that rise up and over the interlocking roofscapes.
Frake´ is a fast-growing hardwood that originates from sustainably managed forests in West Africa and has a flawless surface with a flame-like patterned grain that is accentuated by the Platowood® process. This characteristic is further highlighted in the way the product is used at Old Bearhurst, where the sharply cut mitres between the wall and roof boards provide a strong, modern contrast to the rough-sawn, shiplapped green oak cladding that was added between the first floor level and the eaves of the barn during its remodelling. Since the extension’s construction, the Platowood® has mellowed relatively evenly in colour, giving it’s clustered forms a patina of age that successfully complements the materials of the original buildings.
nominated for the RIBA Manser Medal
The Modern Timber House in the UK, chapter 4
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Images: James Brittain