Stormy Castle is a purpose designed, Code 5, site specific family home, constructed in a remote location in Gower, Wales. The project won the RIBA Manser Medal 2014—an award from the RIBA for Britain's best new home.
The brief for the project evolved through detailed discussion with the client and a thorough understanding of the site. The existing main house was to be demolished and replaced with a contemporary dwelling that responds sensitively yet positively to the site, creating a timeless, high-quality architectural solution carefully integrated into the landscape.
A functional brief was provided by the client which identified desirable and undesirable characteristics in order to guide the design, without being prescriptive. Fundamental to the brief was the desire for a l ow energy, low maintenance, sustainable, lifetime home achieving a high level Code for Sustainable Homes.
The site lies in an exceedingly sensitive rural location on the North Gower coast, on the edge of National Trust land, occupying an elevated position. It lies within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty near to the remains of a Celtic hill fort. The site is remote and is accessed off a shared private track.
The scheme was inevitably going to be controversial and it was clear that achieving planning permission would not be straightforward. The project was commissioned in late 2008. Design proposals evolved following an extensive analysis of the site and bud get, presentations to Swansea Planning Authority, local Community Groups and the ‘Design Commission for Wales’. DCfW were highly supportive of the design approach and “innovative design in a protected landscape”. In association with the Landscape Architect s, Landscape Visual Impact Assessments were undertaken . Planning permission was granted in December 2010.
Principal materials selected for the project were insitu concrete, using GGBS, the only logical material for an earth shelter construction, with elements of Corten and glass. This combination gave the required low maintenance and longevity, whilst providing a raw, honest aesthetic appropriate to the site. Concrete is widely used in the local agricultural buildings, as is rusted metal, which also tones magnificently with the rich brown orange of the surrounding bracken and landscape generally. Having considered the optimum way of building into the hillside, the form has been designed to respond to the fall of the land, and recognising that the new house should respect the beautiful landscape setting; flat ‘green’ planted roofs, which along with improving the insulation also create useable terraces, were logical design decisions.
The dwelling was conceived as three stepped ‘wings’ set into the landscape, following the contours of the land, with much of the proposed dwelling cut and sunk into the sloping site, reducing massing, visibility and impact. This fragmented form evolved in response to the site topography, climatic considerations, orientation—planning the accommodation to take account of room function and sun path, combined with desired view s, privacy and internal organization/room relationship s, access and circulation. The extensive landscaping scheme provides manicured areas close to the house, including a sunken secret courtyard offering a protected suntrap, with the remainder of the landscape being returned to wild hillside, meadow or heathland.
The project has surpassed all targets set at the time of the client’s original brief and the pre-construction figures produced by the M&E consultant and Code Assessors. These include achieving Code for Sustainable homes level 5, an EPC certificate ratin g A, following a 100/100 score and an Actual Building Emissions Rate of -0.46 Kg/m2 against the Target Emission Rate 22.55 Kg/m2. The building uses a combination of a highly insulated fabric including Green roofs and technological systems to achieve it s credentials. Systems such as Photovoltaic Solar Panels, Solar Thermal Panels, ground source heat pump, rainwater harvesting, wood burning stoves and MVHR have all been installed. In addition a low energy L ED lighting scheme has been specified through-out and the building complies with the Lifetime Homes Criteria.
The finished product is a testament to the strong relationship between client, architect and contractor and is a remarkable achievement for replacement buildings and housing within a designated Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and for architecture in Wales. This is a home designed to change, to reflect the client ’s changing needs, to settle and mature within its surrounding landscape, and to suggest a new approach t o sustainable, site specific, passive design in housing.