Saturday05 September 2015

Nord offers shingle life

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Nord has completed the second house in Alain de Botton’s holiday home initiative, Living Architecture, on the beach in Dungeness, Kent.

Sited two doors down from the late film director Derek Jarman’s famous cottage, the Shingle House replaces a former fisherman’s house and smokery, to whose footprint and envelope the architects had to adhere.

“It is conceived as three separate buildings,” says project architect Mark Bell. “Different houses for the rituals of living, cooking and bathing.”

The three forms follow the volumes of the former house, smokery and garage, but sport a hierarchy of exaggerated roof pitches. They are connected by glazed openings and a white concrete spine that runs from the kitchen sideboard, along the floor of the hall, rising up to form a chimney, hearth and staircase in the open plan living room. Purpleheart flooring lines the kitchen and living space, extending out on to a screened west-facing terrace.

The cabin-like interior is finished in bright white-oiled vertical timber boarding, whose dimensions shift subtly according to orientation, with brass fittings referencing both the nautical and railway themes of the area – in which many houses are built from old train carriages.

Furniture is a carefully selected palette of early modernist pieces, including lighting by Jean Prouvé and Alvar Aalto, and some reclaimed seating, lovingly reupholstered. The downstairs bathroom houses a black cast concrete bath and sink, with access on to a smaller screened terrace.

The exterior is clad in the local vernacular of black-stained cedar shingles across the north-south walls and gables, while the east-west facades are clad in vertical boarding.


Readers' comments (17)

  • I adamantly applaud this venture's in-depth commitment to architecture in a pure form. Yet this is crap.. Have the very last bits of joy, daring, and optimism been wrung from our profession? How did we come to rewarding such banal interventions as these? The refined expression of minimalism can be a beautiful thing, but this project isn't expressing anything other than fussing about with some irrelevant and minor detailing. This is a superficial conclusion but of course, yet if a project altogether fails at the superficial level then it still fails overall. The cult of architecture really needs to come up for air, and I think we architects can do far better than this in doing designs which aren't fundamentally unappealing.

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  • Fred Smith

    Is Alain de Botton an architect now? An example to us all, I'm sure the building industry will learn a lot.

    I'm sure his deep thinking will bring new insights to architecture.

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  • Shame that a piece of local history had to go for this.

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  • Fred Smith

    I love Alain, he brings so much to so many areas of our lives.

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  • Mike Duriez

    It is just very sweet of Alain de Botton to try to improve the English middle class's selection of holiday homes. Landmark Trust is obviously not enough. This extends what Charles Jenks is doing in his cancer centres in a less obviously charitable direction. Is this a pure commercial venture or charity? Does anyone know?

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  • Michael, as we all learn taste is subjective and architecture is bound by context. I haven't visited dungeness (or seen more than this photo of Nord's project), but from the photos I have seen this would seem an appropriate response to the site. I am happy for you to disagree, but I personally appreciate this style of architecture and surely that difference is a good thing (?). Just saying it's crap isn't particularly insightful.

    Fred, no he isn't; he is a developer who cares about design. Something we all should be pleased about (even if you don't agree with all of the designs he commissions).

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  • If we look along our coastline at those areas that were not spoiled by a relatively short-lived tourism industry, we can see that the architecture is understated and tidy, which would seem to be exactly what has been delivered here.

    To go down a route of ignoring the context and designing at will just leads us to messy developments like Sandbanks. What's wrong with the coastline being the point of interest?

    I find Michael's comment incredibly naïve, and have spent a career so far experiencing opinions such as this, from the weakest of students, unable to appreciate the simple things.

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  • I visited Dungeness a couple of months back and this house struck me as hitting the right balance between design and context. It's a surreal enough place already without some crazy blob being stuck on the beach.

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  • Transcription from Dungeness Community meeting - minutes 5/10/09

    "Concerns were voiced about the planning permission given to demolish and rebuild Pearl Cottage, the Old Smokery, which was the oldest house in Dungeness and will now be rebuilt as an architectural holiday home to be let the public."

    I hope that those renting the new building aren't there to savour the local context and heritage.

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  • Carbuncle Cup anyone? Part of the charm of Dungeness is the ad-hoc nature and accumulation of buildings. If the beach is to be littered with these banal, minimalist and dull architect designed sheds surely the character of the area is diminshed. This is anti-architecture, it uses a minimal vocabulary in cliche after cliche. It should not be celebrated but condemned for the paucity of it's imagination.

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