'The heart is the chief feature of a functioning mind.'
Frank Lloyd Wright

Newbuild beachhouse, Sal Estuary, Kingsbridge, Devon, 2006 - Project

SUMMARY: These are preliminary sketches for a beach house for a private client. The house was to be perched on a steep bank overlooking the Sal estuary at Kingsbridge in Devon, with balconies cantilevered out over the beach below.

The beach house was to occupy a small but prominent site - a promentory-like part of the garden of an existing cottage adjoining the estuary.

The accommodation was to comprise four bedrooms, two bathrooms, a Lounge with a fireplace (all with unobstructed views to the South and West), and a Kitchen/Dining area galleried over the Lounge. The Lounge and Kitchen/Dining areas were each to have balconies on their seaward side.

Sketches were completed in summer 2006 and a Planning Consultant briefed to assist us with a Planning Application. However our client thereafter decided not to proceed with the project.

DETAIL: The size, shape and slope of the site virtually dictated the design, though the angled geometry used was a design decision (see below). All of the principal rooms and bedrooms were to have uninterrupted views across the estuary to largely natural landscape beyond.

With a residence on the sea one is looking for as much exposure to the view as possible. With the site steeply sloping towards the sea achieving sea views for all of the rooms would involve stretching the accommodation along the long axis of the site. However the narrowness of the site dictated that the accommodation needed to be lined-up as a block one room wide but split on at least two levels with the lower level dug into the ground. The highest level for the structure was set by the desire not to block views towards the sea from behind the house, and to bind it as intimately as possible to its site. On the other hand there was an absolute minimum height we could place the lowest habitable floor above Ordnance Chart Datum. So the highest point of the house and its lowest floor levels were set by external determinants.

The geometry of this house was derived directly from the line of the end wall of the bedroom wing adjoining an existing bungalow next door. In sketches I slanted the end wall towards the South in order to permit the neighbouring bungalow a largely unobstructed downriver view . This was not as the result of a complaint or any stipulation, it came out of a desire to accommodate the house to its surroundings. The slanting of the end wall also took away the impression of a thick and blocky building, making the bedroom block seem thinner than it actually was.

Rather than have the one end wall at odds with the rectilinear walls within I  kept to the angle of the end wall, and its reflex angles, in all of the walls within the house. This created accommodation that seemed to be orientating towards the South and downriver.  

There were to be balconies to both the Lounge and Kitchen levels, each cantilevering up to 12 feet over the beach. These were to have grilled floors to allow sea winds to blow up through them without causing structural damage through excessive 'lift' or 'pull' on the balconies. Likewise the Lounge roof was to be trellised on the S and SW sides to offer solar shading in summer, whilst reducing wind uplift on the roof. The roof overhang on the S/SW sides was to act like the brim of a hat - keeping out the steep hot sun of summer but allowing in the lower and cooler beams of winter sun. The aspect to the rear was to be single-storey, low-key and offer no hint of what lay on the seaward side.

The bedroom block was to offer cabin-like bedrooms with tall windows looking out over the estuary. It was envisaged to be constructed of the same local stone as the sea wall nearby, and would quickly be overgrown with climbers to blend in to the background, almost like an rock outcropping. The intention behind this was that the stonework would 'anchor' the lighter Lounge and Kitchen/Dining elements to the site, the whole house looking more like an inhabited rock outcropping than a house with clearly defined walls and roof. The Lounge and Kitchen/Dining areas, with their soaring windows and cantilevered steel balconies were by contrast to be spectacular and ship-like.


Eye level view from Southeast. The Lounge window overlooking the estuary is double height, with the Kitchen/Dining galleried above it.The primary building elements are local stone, glass, wood and steel.
Aerial view from Southeast. This view shows the slightly taller lounge 'block' on the seaward side buttressed by the lower bedroom and garage blocks beside it.
Ground and upper level plans. The accommodation was set at split levels to make it appear closer and more broken-up in character. The bedrooms were to be cabin-like, with much of the furniture built-in.
This aerial perspective drawing shows how it was intended that the beach house should be 'of' the site rather than 'on' it, like the houses beyond.
The partially dug-in lower level plan. The Lounge was to have a local stone fireplace and back wall, with glazed walls looking out to sea. The gallery behind the bedrooms was to be lit by diffused natural light 'columns' fed by sunpipes.
Beach level view from Southwest. The balconies were to have steel mesh floors to allow strong sea winds to pass through them without causing excessive lift or pull on the structure.
Aerial view from Southeast. Trellices to the South and southwest shield the Lounge windows from hot summer sun while letting sea winds pass through unhindered.
Staircase and fireplace core from above. A small almost hidden triangular rooflight between them provides light and ventilation to the WC adjoining the entrance.
View along the bedroom block Southeast towards the ship-like Lounge and Kitchen/Dining balconies.