While the country house typology has been a significant part of the British architecture heritage and tradition for centuries, few examples of such houses have been built after the Second World War. Guidelines and policies regarding building in the countryside may be strict, but this did not stop London-based architects Paul + O seeking planning permission for a new house in Suffolk a few years ago. Their design was granted permission in 2003 and the architects, Paulo Marto and Paul Acland, set off to create their version of a thoroughly modern British country house.
The house, named The Wilderness, was completed a few months ago and sits discreetly in a Suffolk wood clearing. Its minimal shape creates a pleasant contrast to the softer natural environs, while extra trees and shrubs were planted in the expansive garden in order to make the transition from natural to man-made environment even more seamless. Moving inside the house, large glass openings frame the gorgeous landscape, connecting visually the interior with the exterior in every direction. Meanwhile, vertical vistas inside add to the house's airy feel and flowing interior.
The structure's asymmetrical volumes create an elegant low synthesis, enveloping in a grey-rendered steel structure the cruciform-shaped program layout. The Wilderness spans a vast 750sq m and includes several sitting areas and six bedrooms, as well as an indoor swimming pool and a double-height front hall with staircase and a gallery that create a truly grand entrance.
The structure, respectful both to its natural surroundings and its historical predecessors, combines traditional and modern elements in several different levels. Traditional and local material, such as oak and flint, are used in the interior while the scheme integrates contemporary environmental strategies such as rainwater harvesting, grey-water recycling and solar panels. Additionally, looking at the layout, it is clear that the architects drew inspiration from the traditional country house typology; the first-floor overhang is a contemporary interpretation of the traditional Suffolk medieval timber-framed house, while the interior spatial arrangement follows the tradition of the later 19th Century revivalist country houses.
Mixing old and new techniques of design and construction and respecting the sensitive natural site, Paul + O have created a house that works with its geographical and historical context while at the same time expresses its own time.
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Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).
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