'Now I see the secret of the making of the best persons. It is to grow in the open air and to eat and sleep with the earth.'
Walt Whitman

Solar hemicycle residence near Henley in Arden, Warwickshire

SUMMARY: These are sketches for a one-off solar hemicycle residence for a private client on a site near Henley-in-Arden, Warwickshire.

Carden King generated this design for our original client for the Ardenwood Solar Residences project shortly after that project won Planning Permission in 2005. The brief for accommodation was similar to the Ardenwood residences, but the site for this project did not require the house to be partially cut into the ground.

We completed sketches and a CAD model as shown here, but before a Planning Application could be made our client decided to pursue commercial uses for the site.

DETAIL: The hemicycle shape and orientation of this house, as at Ardenwood, was designed to maximise exposure to southern sun and derive a substantial proportion of heat input from passive solar gain (greenhouse effect). All but one of the five bedrooms is galleried over the lounge, which is a double-height space.

Cooling and shading were to be provided by a variety of natural means including:

- The large pool drawn up to the southern elevation of the house, providing a rudimentary form of air conditioning as well as enlivening the interior with reflected light.

- Extended roof overhangs.

- Metal mesh external roller blinds to many of the South elevation windows.

- High thermal capacity.

- Cross ventilation.

- Ground-cooled low-level ventilation inlets to the rear of the house. The ability to open dampers near the first floor ceiling of the stack in order to use it to exhaust warm air when necessary.

- On the very hottest days the ground-source heat pump system can be used in reverse to provide additional cooling.

The ground-source heat pump that was to provide heat inputs in addition to passive solar gain was to be powered by the solar arrays on the roof - visible on the 3D images. Underfloor heating was to be used throughout.

In order to keep the bulk of this design down and in order to roof what would be an awkward shape for a pitched roof we gave this house a flat roof. To further emphasise the link between the house and its site we drew a ramp of turf and grass up to the first floor on one side. The area under this ramp was to be used for storage in view of the fact that there would be a carport in lieu of a garage. Thus one of the two double first floor bedrooms would have a very direct link to the garden, while the other double bedroom at first floor level would have a balcony overlooking the garden.

The thick curved North wall was to incorporate considerable insulation and relatively small openings. The outer skin of this wall was to be of a deeply modelled material such as dry stone walling to encourage insect and thus bird life nearby.

The garden here, as at Ardenwood, is defined by a low semicircular wall which connects to the house on both sides. With this wall we intended to clearly define the part of the landscape that is 'inside' (and managed) and that which was 'outside' (and unmanaged).


-         Radii of outer circle: 21.3metres

-         Gross Internal heated Floor Area - Ground Floor: 195 square metres (2099 sq. ft.).

-        Gross Internal heated Floor Area - First Floor: 123 square metres (1324 sq. ft.).

-         Total Gross Internal heated Floor Area: 318 square metres (3423 sq. ft.).

-         Number of bedrooms - 5.

-         Number of bathrooms - 4.

-         Approx. area of PV panels - 24 sq m. (16 no. 1.5m x 1m fixed panels on roof) This equates to generation of approx. 2.4 kWp - over half of an average household's electrical energy consumption.

-         Approx. area of South-facing glazing (45 deg each side of South): 63 sq. m.

-         Area of North-facing glazing (45 deg each side of North): 15 sq.m.

-     This residence shown here (with the full circle garden) can be realised on a site with clear Southern exposure of a size approx 0.65 acres which is approx 60x45 metres (196x146 ft) in area.

-     There are a number of variants to the design, including one which can be realised on a site with a clear Southern exposure of a size approx. 0.40 acres, which is approx 40x40 metres (133x133 ft) in area.


Summary aerial view from Southwest. The house has a large pool or pond drawn right up to it on its southern side. This is primarily to provide cooling to the house, but a by-product would be that the house would be alive with moving light reflected off it
Aerial view from South. The lapped timber first floor balcony can be seen within the house. It emerges on the left as an external balcony to the master bedroom, and on the right as an external ballustrade to the garden ramp.
Ground Floor plan. The centre of the plan is a large fireplace to a two-storey Lounge facing South over the cooling pool. There is a secluded 'media area' behind the main Lounge for television/ video/ computer use and on this plan also a ground floor gues
First Floor plan. This contains four bedrooms, a family bathroom, and a heating plant room. The stairs continue up to the roof.
Eye-level view from Southeast. The ramp was added to strengthen the link between the house and the ground. Another version of this plan dispenses with the ramp and has balconies to both double bedrooms.
Ramp and pool detail.
Eye-level view from Southwest.The trelliced edge to the roof provides shading to the South elevation glazing, acting like the brim of a hat by blocking the steep hot summer sun but letting in the shallower cooler winter sun.
Detail of South elevation and pool. The leaded ledge on the elevation was to contain metal mesh drop blinds. The ledge stops in order that there can be large opening doors over the pool, giving the impression of added height to part of the lounge.