With its cluster of roundel towers and conical roofs, this countryside home for a family of four in Kent evokes the local vernacular of 18th-century oast houses—buildings once used for drying hops in beer brewing—but its design and construction are anything but traditional.
“The clients were very open to pushing the boundaries of designing an innovative house,” says project architect Lucy Moroney of ACME, the London-based firm behind the home, dubbed Bumpers Oast.
Though similar in form and built with local trades, Bumpers Oast deviates from traditional structures with a new material palette and construction methods, including prefabrication, that helped the home achieve passive house standards of airtightness. The use of a heavily insulated timber frame, instead of the brick walls traditionally used for hop kilns, was key in achieving Code for Sustainable Homes Level 4.
“The process of construction was very much an exchange between the contractors and the architect, working within the palette of their traditional craft, and then pushing this to manifest a design which is a contemporary interpretation of the traditional oast,” explains Moroney. “Although the house is highly bespoke, we developed simple and clean details, which worked with the nature of the geometry.”
The design process began with intensive research into the local vernacular. The architects began the design with four roundel towers with proportions based on a traditional oast. This cluster was then pulled apart to create a radial plan with a central triple-height space that connects all the towers and provides views of the surrounding countryside.
“In their first home, the client’s life centered around the kitchen table,” says Moroney. “The kids would do their homework there, it was where you’d sit to have a cup of tea as a guest, and it was where the postman popped his head in to deliver parcels. Having a space for family gathering at the heart of the house was key to the design. The triple-height atrium is very much that area. All the private and functional spaces in the house open into this feature.”
“The form of this building is radically different from its predecessor, and was only made possible thanks to a visionary client and an exhaustive research project into the local vernacular,” says Friedrich Ludewig, director at ACME. “This house can be both contemporary and proud of its Kent identity.”