Stepping Stone House is an expansion to a manor house in Berkshire, England, erected on stilts over a lake designed by architecture studio Hamish & Lyons.
Three unconnected, underutilized, and flood-prone outbuildings were demolished and replaced with two new structures that offered more living space for the existing home. Special care was paid to the five youngsters, all of them were males. As a result, the design strives to engage the family in the soothing benefits of nature. This is accomplished by making extensive use of natural light, an organic structure, natural materials, and a fresh landscape design.
The smallest of the two new structures is a self-contained guest house complete with a kitchen/living area, utility corridor, bathroom, and sleeping deck. The bigger structure houses the family's primary living quarters, as well as a bed deck and a bathroom. A structural glass bridge connects it to the existing home. Because the glass at the higher ground floor level is intended as sliding, opening door panels, both buildings may be "opened" to each other.
The stilts raise the structures above the lake, keeping them free of flood waters and enabling flush access to the original house's bottom floor. They also allow swimming beneath the structures. The roof and its 1.5m overhanging eaves, which shade the interiors in the summer and offer a protected walkway that connects inside and out, are a crucial aspect of the design.
The choice of hardwood for the roof's broad railing, deck, and soffit adds warmth and tactility to these places. The brick was chosen to complement the existing brick manor house and to provide the sense of a monolithic, rectilinear form floating easily above the river. To emphasize the horizontality of the new structures, a longer brick dimension was used.
The building's basic steel frame was supposed to create the appearance that it was floating on water. Light reflecting off the river shows the undercroft of the structure, where the black steel ribs contrast with the white corrugated floor deck. To support the overhanging eaves and echo the steel floor supports around the periphery of the structures, tapered steel fins protrude out from the Glulam framework at clerestory level.
The Glulam was chosen for its exact engineering and robust features, making it a great companion for the steel frame and unique glazing systems, both of which were built with the utmost precision. The larch Glulam is mostly exposed on the interior, which, along with the Douglas Fir plywood paneling, adds warmth to the space, with the central "Y" post serving as a focal point. The upper section of the "Y" divides to support the central roof light that runs the length of each structure, breaking the roof and revealing the interior to the sky. The pre-oxidized diamond copper roof shingles are inspired by the clay roof tiles of the manor home, while adding a distinct character to the new structures. Because copper is malleable, a custom edge detail was produced to give the roof eaves a blade-like sharpness.
The swimming lake and circular paths around the buildings were designed by the architect as part of the notion of engaging the family with their environment. A walkway leads from the front parking area through a shaded garden of huge tree ferns to stepping stones that bridge the lake. The stones connect to an elevated walkway and bridge that connects the two structures.
A diving platform stretches out on the south side, providing a central location from which to explore the surrounds. A deck goes down to a brick terrace via stairs. The path then descends beneath the glass link, returning to the parking bay. As a consequence, the building and nature blend to create a whimsical and engaging environment that is both peaceful and spiritual.
Much of the structure was pre-fabricated, allowing for a quick construction time on site and reducing waste. The architects created the concept as a modular construction system based on a repeating section, which allowed for more efficiency and precise refinement.
Photos by Will Scott Photography.
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