The Oxfordshire Residence, Richard Meier’s first house to be built in the UK, is notable not only for its relationship with the expansive landscape but also the rich spatial experience of both interior and exterior spaces. The play of openness and compression, light and shadow, characteristics drawn from the surrounding site, make it a compelling project.
Richard Meier Architects writes: the residence is based on three principles: an engaging response to the site; a resonant connection with the history of the place; and a vital progression toward sustainability. It would be impossible to conceive of a residence in this part of the UK without considering the typology of the English manor house. This design espouses many of the tenets behind this ideal: it is a family home which honours the woodlands and topography, drawing the occupant into a relationship with the natural world while creating space for comfortable living. The design seeks to integrate the landscape and views as part of its identity, bringing a natural balance between building and landscape.
The structure and orientation of the house embody a direct response to the makeup of the site. The solidity of the back of the house effectively mirrors the density of the woodlands, while the lucidity of the glass in front embraces the openness of the landscape beyond. Similarly, the layering of programme, walls and columns that dictate the interior layout are designed to complement the light and views specific to every vantage point, creating breathtaking common spaces.
The design places an emphasis on sustainability, both in its contemporary meaning – which is to say mechanisms for conservation, emission reduction and renewable energy are employed wherever possible – and its traditional meaning, whereby it is intended to stand the test of time. The house is anchored to its site, and has been carefully designed to embrace human scale, the purity of the aesthetic, peerless construction methods and materials, and the conservation and utilisation of natural resources.
The jury citation for the RIBA House of the Year shortlist reads: “The brief for the Oxfordshire Residence was to create an ambitious modern home, based on the idea of the reinvention of the country house and ‘adding to architectural traditions rather than parody’ of traditional architecture. What has been achieved is a house of exceptional, enduring quality and detail, which we observed was clearly enjoyed by the users.”
“The rigour with which detailing and coordination through monitoring of construction quality had been undertaken was very impressive, particularly as the project was delivered through collaboration across the Atlantic. A number of the construction techniques were transplanted from the US and applied in a UK context, including the joinery, alongside developments of European systems in bespoke ways, eg Schueco tailored its windows to be flush with the render exterior.”
“Whilst the scheme was described as ‘simple, graceful and elegant’, the jury found the house to be a remarkable, bold and stark addition to the countryside setting. A trademark feature of Richard Meier is the ‘very’ white, white (RAL 9016), which gave a unified experience between the spaces of a variety of scales. Framed views of the Oxfordshire countryside were set against the surprisingly domestic-scaled settings and rooms within such a large house.”
“To a large degree, the quality of the modern addition to the setting relies on contrast with the mature landscape setting with ‘stark white’ appearance. The proportions of the volumes which comprise the principal spaces of the house and their interrelationship with the composition of the facade, are all handled in a manner that can be recognised from other Meier houses. Overall, a remarkable house.”