Lathams Unveils New ‘Modern Movement’ Architecture in Derbyshire's Peak Park

Derby, United Kingdom, June 11, 2008 --( Two strikingly contemporary new houses designed by Lathams have been unveiled in the heart of the Peak District National Park.

The buildings, which nestle in the hillside overlooking the picturesque Derbyshire town of Bakewell, are rare examples of genuinely new Modern Movement design in a National Park.

And according to principal architect Stuart Hodgkinson, they are already helping change the way planners and developers look at the challenges of contextual placemaking in sensitive and protected locations.

The new homes were designed as part of a larger residential development centred on Castle Hill House, a Grade II listed building dating to around 1820, used most recently, along with the stable buildings and a dilapidated 1960s dormitory block, as a boarding house for a local school.

Stuart explained: “Castle Hill House itself would have been a fairly bread-and-butter residential conversion project, except for the need for enabling works to make the development viable. This required the demolition of the derelict 1960s dormitory block and its replacement with new homes.

“On a site situated within both a Local Conservation Area and the Peak Park, this represented a significant planning hurdle.

“For the whole development to work, we all agreed from the word ‘go’ that while the solution would of course need to take the context of the existing buildings and this most sensitive of sites as its starting point, the new buildings themselves would require a strongly design-led approach.”

The result of this is a design which is contextual, in that it is inspired by the context of geography, topography and the existing built environment, but also strikingly modernist - a genuinely contemporary intervention into the hillside.

This duality is linked to the original objectives for the development, and to the requirements of the planning process.

Stuart explained: “Across the whole development, the aim of ourselves, the developers and the Peak Park planners was to retain and improve what was valuable and appropriate, to remove what was inappropriate and obsolete, and to create something new in its place that created value and utility – all without increasing the overall impact of the site on the surrounding area.

“Ironically, another polite vernacular design in traditional Derbyshire stone could only have increased visual scale and impact, and probably made the development unacceptable. But the fact that these two new homes have such a strikingly different form has avoided that pitfall.”

The new homes were conceived as three planes stepped into the hillside. The lower plane is clad in Derbyshire stone with minimal openings and sits perfectly in context, effectively continuing the existing formal garden well of the listed house into the plinth of the new buildings.

Above this plinth is a terrace, and behind that a glazed wrapped facade, providing the principal double height living space in the homes, as well as the kitchen. Rising through this plane is a simple wide linear staircase, opening to a central top-lit atrium. This broad stone flight gives to the third single-storey plane of bedrooms, bathrooms and dressing spaces.

Taking advantage of the site’s topography, the new houses are substantially earth-sheltered, a sustainability advantage which is supported by high levels of additional insulation. A sedum roof delivers the required low profile, an additional depth of insulation and rain capture and drainage advantage.

Stuart recognises that the resulting modernist buildings at Castle Hill might surprise visitors to Bakewell, but insists they are very much in keeping with the long-term vision for the Park’s built environment, as set out in the latest Peak Park Design Guide.

“It took us all a long time to work through everything, working with the client and planners as a genuine team in order to reach the eventual design, but the result is everything we set out to achieve – an exciting viable development which genuinely enhances and lifts its setting.

“Getting this right isn’t easy, but the secret of success at Castle Hill was the chemistry between the wider team – it was the result of good planning, good design, a good client and a good builder.”

Marc Sanderson
+44 (0)1332 365777