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Westering, Chagford: new dwelling

'Annie Martin worked with us from original concept through design, planning, detailed design, tendering, project management and snagging. We had had some experience of working with architects before where we never felt quite in control of the project and that the result would be their statement rather than our home. With Annie it was different, she was collaborative and supportive while at the same time very knowledgeable and professional. She was particularly thorough on the process and detail, so that our plans were accepted by Dartmoor National Park Planning at first submission despite the fact that it was a very modern design, and during construction there was rarely any ambiguity about exactly what was required from the builders. We have now been living in the home she helped us create for three and a half years and it has stood the test of time. It is both beautiful and very workable.' Client, James Warner

Fitting into the landscape – The design is inspired from the natural contours of the site. The ground adjacent to the dwelling remains unchanged, sloping from the northeast to the southwest, retaining the potential to conceal the building.

A gravel track, branching off the existing drive, follows the contour of the sloping ground. From the parking and drop off point, level access is provided to the entrance and first floor living spaces. From this point, the dwelling appears as though it is a one-storey building, reminiscent of a discreet agricultural barn.

The simple, pre-weathered zinc pitched roof, echoing the local granite and sky, and untreated cedar clad walls, suggestive of rural vernacular and natural surroundings, combine to reduce the visual impact of the building. The entrance and sliding glazed doors to the southeast elevation are set back to provide weather protection as well as to further reduce the apparent weight of the first floor. The granite walled cloakroom defines the entrance, grounds the building by linking it to the retaining walls below, and houses the fireplace.

Two parallel, sloping, granite clad retaining walls create a levelled grass area at ground floor level. This allows the bedrooms and study, which are below ground, to have level access to the garden and views beyond to the southwest. The walls also provide a clear division between lawn and the surrounding landscape, which would be retained as natural, maintained grassland. The largely glazed façade of the ground floor is set back by a metre to the southwest to provide beneficial solar shading and to lessen its visual impact.

Materials and Context – The hillside rises beyond the house, with low trees obscuring the building from the northeast and forming a backdrop to the dwelling from the southwest. The materials chosen, untreated natural timber cladding, glass and local stone walls, act to link the proposal to its surroundings.

The dwelling was completed in December 2012.

In 2014 the house won a Regional Award and placed on RIBA Manser Award (RIBA House of the Year)