Tree House by 6a Architects

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“This sensitive and subtle little building elegantly extends a Grade II listed house, so its occupant, who has become increasingly immobile and wheelchair bound, can live independently in her home as an integral member of her family, with her husband and their daughters; and can continue actively to enjoy her garden.
 
Their home consisted of two small 1830s brick weavers’ cottages which were linked together in the 1970s. The two ground floors were at different levels and these were half a storey and more above a narrow back garden, to which they were linked via a veranda on chunky concrete columns, the legacy of a previous owner. The garden which was overgrown and full of flowers focused on a sumac tree and was informally linked to those of neighbours.
 
This new single storey extension makes all the public rooms and principal bedroom accessible and effectively re-orientates the focus of the house. A ramp within the frame of the veranda connects the two ground floor levels, providing access between the kitchen and living room. Within the new addition, a ramp curves around the tree in the garden, down to a new bedroom and a washroom.  The former  has the quality of a delightful  and  very  private  summer   house,  which  opens  up  onto  a  terrace  which overlooks the garden and back to and through  the original house.
 
The new building is timber frame on timber foundations and is clad in reclaimed Jarrah skimmings. Internally it is all painted white and simply detailed. Its exposed timber joists inevitably have quirky corners to accommodate the curves and the minimum headroom feasible, where the building abuts the neighbour’s garden. These, combined with the softwood lining and plywood floors, give the building a gentle and charming Shaker aesthetic.
 
The hypotheses of the Tree House are that everything should be reversible and infringe as minimally as possible on the listed buildings and that there should be a neighbourly use of shared gardens. Wherever   possible existing elements   have been kept and   reused, including   the oversized concrete columns supporting the veranda. The construction is of sustainably sourced softwood, with substantial insulation and double-glazed windows. External cladding is reclaimed Jarrah skimmings, recut and fitted in-situ. Heating is under floor and ventilation is natural.
 
This is a delightful building which has transformed this home, not only in making it accessible but also in embedding it in the garden, with a very simple and beautiful aesthetic.” Tree House is on the longlist for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Manser Medal 2014 for the best new house or major extension in the UK. Photos courtesy RIBA. 6a.co.uk

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