Invited to extend a detached house on the fringes of a leafy Surrey town west of London, Takero Shimazaki Architects (t-sa) looked to Renaissance Italy as a source of inspiration. “We tested the idea of an urban gesture in a suburban house by introducing a ‘wall’ or a loggia to the back”, says Takero Shimazaki. “We were very much inspired by Palladio’s gesture of similar introduction of public elements in his country villas, and also looked at the ‘formal correction’ of the Basilica Palladiana at Vicenza”.
The existing house had a conventional arrangement, with four bedrooms over three distinctly separate ground floor family rooms facing the garden to the rear. The kitchen, dining and living rooms each had reasonable light and views, but no interconnection. External spaces were set out as a large lower patio area, level with the house and a raised sloping lawn 1.2 metres above with overhanging trees, which “resulted in an uninviting quality, lacking cohesion and connectivity with internal living space”, suggests Shimazaki.
Stretching across the entire rear elevation, t-sa designed brick and timber enclosure – a 13-metre-long seven-bay ‘loggia’ – containing a single, flexible space that connects the existing family rooms to the surrounding landscape. It hosts four distinct functions: lounge, central dining table, a bar and an enclosed ‘tandoor pod’ (a mini-kitchen with a tandoor oven, charcoal grill and wok burner) that is visually linked to the main space via an internal window. Existing rooms made internal by the extension are now used as a library and cinema. The landscape was reshaped to align with the family’s habits and evolving activities, lowering the lawn to seated eye level in the loggia. “The floor drifts through the tall brick openings to form gentle steps to the lowered lawn”, says Shimazaki. “At nine metres wide, the stone steps invite the landscape in and give a firm grounding to the brick forms”.
A dark brick was selected for the new wall – corresponding to the darkest tones in the existing brickwork – “emphasising its colossal mass and presence, yet it remains open”, suggests Shimazaki. The charcoal brickwork is formed with recessed mortar joints, 500mm-deep piers and recessed lintels. Between the new masonry form and the painted brick of existing facade spans a softwood structure with three large openings for top light.
“Early in the project, t-sa and the family debated the relevance of loggias or cloistered spaces for living and how they enclose space and garden”, says Shimazaki. A series of card and plaster models tested the articulation of the loggia through proportions, spans and division of space, and “t-sa worked closely with structural engineer Milk to balance the opposing forces of the masonry forms” notes Shimazaki. “This small project means a lot to the practice as it is becoming an important reference for larger current projects”.