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The one that got away… but the journey is as important as the product.

In architecture you don’t always get to see your dreams realised and sometimes the project you put the most passion into… is ‘the one that got away’.

The design for a replacement dwelling at the site of Tetsworth Barn is a prime example. After traversing an immensely challenging town planning  journey to secure permission for an ambitious and aspirational design, the site was sold with the permission to a new owner, and sadly our involvement with the project came to an end.

After the initial disappointment, reflecting on the design journey made us realise that in our line of work, the process is as important (and enjoyable) as the product. The interdisciplinary team working on this project included Partner Philip Waddy and Planning Associate Ifti Maniar who led the incredibly successful and tactful planning strategy, supported by Graduate Planner Josh Downey.

Project Architect Ralph Saull and Architectural Assistant Charlie Kirby worked together from site analysis to final design bringing together a set of high quality drawings to explain the proposal. Initial concept ideas were pitched at an afternoon design charrette attended by architects, planners and urban designers to take in a wide range of views and ideas.

Careful volume calculations were done to understand the size of the existing massing, and a strategy to redistribute this mass into cruciform shape ground level plan accommodating open plan living areas. A semi-subterranean level below provided space for 5 bedrooms with views out over the open countryside.

Exposed on the ridge-line of a hill overlooking Tetsworth Village, the site is exposed to winds carrying noise from the M40 motorway to the south. The sunken bedroom accommodation is shielded from this owing to the north facing orientation. To the south, we proposed creating a landscape feature wall as an acoustic barrier creating courtyard enclosures to the North and creating a sense of arrival as you pass through the acoustic wall and see the impressive dwelling in front of you. The acoustic landscape wall and the subterranean approach were also clever devices from a town planning point of view, significantly lowering the ridge line and screening the development from view as seen from the nearby village.

The array of windows in in the northern point of the cruciform plan give panoramic views of the open countryside and this was explored through developing interior views of the living space. Another feature we sought to celebrate in the interior design was to open up the full height of the roof intersection between the two ranges of the building, to create a pyramidal vaulted ceiling featuring a contemporary roof tie arrangement. Perhaps we will find another project in which to explore this idea further!

The investment in high quality design drawings and 3D renders helped secure a very tricky planning permission for the client, and in turn added significant value to the development. To read more about the ins and outs from a planning perspective, read our previous article on the matter here. The client’s investment in a narrative-led design process helped nurture a receptive and open dialogue with the planning authority. Our team also worked closely with Estate Agents Strutt and Parker to ensure the design of the building would be desirable in the market.

The materiality of the barn draws on nearby buildings using a palette of timber and red brick, albeit applied in a much more contemporary fashion. We worked alongside Landscape Consultants Terra Firma who advised us throughout the process to ensure that the building was designed to be sensitive and subservient to the landscape from key views in the surrounding countryside. The outstanding visuals produced by Radu Chirila at RCC Visuals were essential in making the scheme accessible and easy to interpret both at planning stage, and when marketing the site.

As we reflect on this project, it is clear that a challenging and engaging design process is reward in itself and we were lucky to have worked with such a talented team to craft this piece of architecture together. So rather than remembering this as ‘the one that got away’, it is talked about as one we really enjoyed and one which underlined the value of working in a creative interdiciplinary team.

Check out a design process summary below, produced as a record of some of the excellent work including sketches, drawings, and 3D renders.

Tetsworth Barn – A Design Journey



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