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The Aviary

The Aviary is a new Country House that was granted planning consent under the ‘paragraph 55 exception’.
The design reflects a close collaboration between JPA and landscape architect Todd Longstaffe-Gowan.
Paragraph 55 of the NPPF is an exception to normal planning policy allows for ‘truly outstanding designs’ and designs that ‘reflect the highest standards in architecture’ – continuing the tradition of the English Country House.

The site is set within a wooded site in the area of Munstead in the Surrey Hills, close to some of the architect Edwin Lutyen’s great Country Houses.  Our design on this site sought to completely re-imagine the Country House – attempting to create a dwelling that perhaps Lutyens would design if he had the technical means that lie in our hands today.  

The Aviary is an object-like pavilion that floats in its sylvan site, with an entirely glazed ground floor living space set below an overhanging veiled volume that is neither solid nor void, concealing bedrooms and a garden behind a diaphanous screen.

The ground floor is subdivided by ‘boxes’ containing cloakroom, tv room, cinema, and pantry spaces, that sit as if giant pieces of furniture, clad in coloured polished plaster or timber and are three-quarter height so do not join the soffit reinforcing their ‘object-like’ quality.

The living spaces occupy the places between these objects, while the glass enclosing walls dissolve and the real walls containing the living spaces are the trees that envelope the house.  This is demonstration that here in the 21st century, when most of the world’s population live in cities and space is at a premium, for the Country House the connection to nature is perhaps the most important, the most valuable aspect of dwelling. 

Upstairs, set behind a veil of off-white fibre reinforced concrete fins in alternating textures that shimmer in the light, lies a battery of bedrooms. These are planned around a roof garden, again bringing man and nature together, abstracted from the world outside. 

In his decision, the Planning Inspector wrote:

What makes this project uniquely interesting and innovative in design terms is the expression of the first floor with a high quality permeable screen of narrow vertical elements, which reflects the predominant silver birch trees in the surrounding woods. The glass reinforced concrete fins would be unsupported at the top and would hide the interior bedrooms and terraces but also reflect the light in different ways depending on the weather and time of day; but at all times being intrinsically linked with and seen against the surrounding trees. The fins also provide solar shading. The building would be seen as a contrast and yet a part of the landscape.

Client Private Client
Status Consented
GIA m2 1,430 m2
Planning consultant PlanIt
Heritage consultant SCAU
Structural engineer Momentum
Landscape architect Todd Longstaffe-Gowan
Ecology AAe
M&E Consultant King Shaw
Photography © nu.ma
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