Windward House, St Briavels, Gloucestershire
Alison Brooks Architects’ design intention for Windward House and response to the client brief was to intensify the owner’s connection to the breath-taking landscape overlooking the Wye Valley, and the joy of living with art. The result of a ten-year collaboration, this new house and landscape project celebrates domestic living amongst an extraordinary collection of Indian and African Tribal Art. It includes the restoration and conversion of a late Georgian farmhouse to a gallery and office, a new ‘West Wing’, a sequence of walled gardens and a Pool Pavilion.
The project was conceived as a dialogue between old and new; a journey between the 18th and 21st century. The existing thick-walled farmhouse was originally a series of small, cellular rooms with limited window openings: an architecture of separation. We wanted to contrast this with an open architecture, embracing the landscape.
Seen from the south, the two-storey West Wing is set back, low-lying and partially embedded in the hillside, deferring to the 18th C farmhouse. The volume of the extension is positioned to interlock with the existing stone building. This creates intimate courtyard spaces between high garden walls.
Serving as the owner’s primary living space, The West Wing is open to the landscape and adapted to the needs of later life. It comprises continuous planar elements that fold in three dimensions to create specific spatial and light conditions, echoing the topography of adjacent meadows. The darkness of its cladding makes it recessive, connecting it to the ground and the darkness of local pine forests.
Living, dining and cooking areas flow into each other and onto exterior terraces. The kitchen is placed at the centre of the West Wing, washed with light and ringed by a gallery. It is a functional space, visible from the many rooms and circulation spaces that revolve around it.
The art galleries offer spatial drama and a variety of light conditions, animating the journey. At Windward House, niches, benches and recesses are intrinsic to the architecture, providing moments to pause, to glimpse distant views, and to recalibrate the senses.
‘Stair for 100 Objects’ is an installation in itself. Each tread is a 6mm thick ‘loop’ horizontally cantilevered from the stair’s central spine, a vertical steel grillage with 100 cells to display the owner’s treasured small works. Moving upward into light, the stair leads to a first-floor gallery, bedrooms, study and a roof terrace. Every space offers perspectives both outward and inward, through rooms and across gardens.
The Pool Gallery is the culmination of the journey. Approached via a garden path, it is a stone-walled courtyard open to the sky. A quiet retreat for art, guests, and grandchildren, the Pool Pavilion celebrates local traditions of field stone masonry and precision carpentry.
Surrounding Windward House are 8.5 hectares of land. A large portion of this is wildflower meadow and orchards that are part of the owners’ long-term programme to restore and optimise the ecological value of the whole area. The landscape strategy includes ongoing repair and renewal of 2.5km of hedges with pollen-rich species and the planting of 2,500 trees.
Alison Brooks Architects
Unit 610 Highgate Studios
53–79 Highgate Road
London NW5 1TL
T: 020 7267 9777
What the judges said:
Windward House, a celebration of domestic life shared with an extraordinary collection of art, impressed the judges as a “complete piece of architecture – beautifully executed and considered.”
The project exemplifies a “real success story of a client and architect working together. The ambition and quality of the end result is wonderful”, said one judge.