A Pre-manufactured Cotswold Build from Hanse Haus

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hanse haus 2 copyLocated in the village of Little Oddington, Oxfordshire, this contemporary house stands out for its design sophistication, efficiency and innovation. It strikes a unique balance between architectural and historical credibility and technological and ecological sophistication.

Due to its location, traditional Cotswold design requirements had to be incorporated into the design. Hanse Haus and Cotswold-based architect, Renato Lusardi made knowing choices over materials and form, such that when you blur your eyes you are seeing a house which knits into the local architectural grain. Yet, when you refocus, you are seeing something quite special – a high efficiency, 21st century house with extremely low energy consumption and a delightful, freeform, interior spaces.

The use of Corten steel, which looks like rusted metal, alongside pressure treated southern yellow pine wood cladding (a very strong hardwood requiring no maintenance) and a pitched zinc roof to imitate an agricultural barn, cleverly blends this eco-build into the local environment.hanse hause 3

Surrounded by 1.8 acre landscaped garden and woodland, the family placed huge emphasis on bringing the outdoors into the property. Historically relevant designs paired with modern, light, open-plan sophistication do not often go hand-in-hand; however, tilt n’ turn windows and an impressive ceiling to floor corner window at the far end of the kitchen unites the outside environment with the interior living space, to take advantage of stunning panoramic views. Two of the first floor bedrooms have mezzanine floors overlooking the grounds, to further extend the sense of space whilst merging the magical woodland with the bedrooms. 

The interior provides a spacious open-plan 320m² living space, with the kitchen being the heart of the home. Large archways lead into the main family areas, offering a seamless transition between individual rooms, giving a functional, yet homely feel. The distinctive void in the ceiling above the dining area is an ingenious way to incorporate more light and a sense of space, whilst also connecting the ground floor with the first floor.

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The house marries open-plan with the need for independence. Alongside the communal rooms are individual spaces for each family member, such as an office with individual work stations, a snug/TV room, meditation room and library.

All five bedrooms have en-suite bathrooms, with water coming from a natural borehole. Underfloor heating runs throughout the ground and first floors, sourced from an air source heat pump, which - combined with the ventilation system, thermal insulation (a mineral wood product) in the walls, ceilings and roofs - naturally and efficiently holds the heat and maintains a wonderful even temperature throughout the entire house.

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The combination of 16 photo voltaic panels creating 3.8kW of energy, 30cm thick thermo-efficiency walls, roofs and windows, high-tech mineral wood thermal insulation, ventilation and a natural water supply from a borehole, the family have seen a drastic reduction in running costs, despite the huge size of the property. The property has also been awarded an EPC rating B and C02 emissions category rating B.

This house, constructed in just 12 weeks by Hanse Haus, demonstrates that contemporary sophistication and historical relevance are not an either/or - they can exist side by side. In doing so, we simultaneously know where we are coming from, while improving where we are going.

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Alan, who’s a tutor at Queen’s University in Belfast, has been studding the local landscape with modern buildings since returning to Ireland from London with his family in the late Nineties. He bought this plot for £55,000 and spent the next two years, and £250,000, creating what can only be described as an architectural anomaly. As fellow architect and friend Patrick Lynch says, ‘It’s completely bonkers.’ The house hovers, dark and menacing, over the landscape. Its arrow-slit windows and jagged profile conjure up thoughts of armour, battles and even Darth Vader. Despite this apparent nonconformity, it also sits comfortably within its landscape; at night, it almost disappears. ‘In scale it matches the front elevation of the neighbouring Masonic hall,’ says Alan, ‘while the form, with its pitched roof and gable presented to the road, follows local traditions.’

The graphite-blue fibre-cement tiles that clad the exterior are indigenous to the area, appearing on a number of pub extensions and a police station in Belfast. ‘I was impressed with the way the material dappled with age,’ says Alan. ‘Our tiles have only a 10-year guarantee. We could repaint, but I like the idea of them fading, as if the building will shed its darkness as it becomes more accepted within the community.’ The house has the air of an impenetrable fortress yet, in common with many of Alan’s projects, there is a complete contrast between the exterior and interior. Stepping from the porch through the large glass front door, you are struck by the light, airy and playful interior. The ground floor consists of a large open space, roughly dissected into a formal living room, dining room, kitchen and TV area. The room partitions vary in height and angle, allowing views through the entire length of the interior and also providing blind spots for privacy. If the communal aspect gets too much, the TV area can be completely shut off from the kitchen, thanks to discreet built-in doors. ‘Spatially, my work has become a lot less formal since my days in London,’ says Alan. ‘The spaces were very precise, whereas here it’s as if you’ve taken the architectural tray and given it a good shake.’


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