Mole Architects takes maritime references onboard for the Boathouse at Poole Harbour


Rory Gardiner

Built for Roger Zogolovitch, co-founder of CZWG Architects and latterly creative director of developer Solidspace, The Houseboat occupies a spectacular site overlooking Poole Harbour. The house was conceived as two upturned hulls, propped together and facing the sea. It is based on a staggered section and an open staircase with interconnected volumes rather than rooms, a feature that Solidspace has explored in many of its domestic projects. Approached through trees, the curved black-stained larch-clad form sits on an exposed concrete base. Living spaces are perched within the curved volumes, enclosed by Douglas fir ribs propped against a concrete portal. The ribs in turn support curved prefabricated panels to create the external walls.


“It’s an odd fish of a house”, says Meredith Bowles of Mole Architects. “It sits in the garden of the Boat House, an intriguing insertion of the second-class lounge salvaged from the SS Mauritania into a purpose-built modernist house built in 1936. The Houseboat is tar-black, resting on a weathered sea wall. The solid base is made from roughcast concrete, and contains the bedrooms, tightly packed as in the hold of a ship. The master bedroom is at the entrance level, with further rooms a half-level down. The hallway looks up to the light, and to the three-storey arch of concrete that holds up the house. Ascending from below the Plimsoll line, the living and dining areas are lofty and open, with a feeling of being ‘on deck’. Portal frames in Douglas fir support curved walls, so that the rooms widen as they rise up, and then narrow in to the western view. Inside it’s all taut curves and timber joinery, a mixture of rawness and finish. The house is an upturned boat, or the belly of a whale.”


The hallway is a wide space enclosed by two curved and carved panelled walls, scalloped in the manner of seventeenth-century linen-fold panelling. A mosaic of the fish and molluscs found in Poole harbour is laid into the walnut floor. The bedrooms and service rooms on the ground and lower-ground floors are the only spaces with doors, with aluminium-machined handles that reiterate the sectional concept. The first stair flight – cast in concrete and left unfinished to wear down over the years – forms part of a proscenium arch that provides the key structural element supporting the Douglas fir portals holding the curved roof. From the first-floor ‘eating level’, with a dining area, kitchen and a terrace, a walnut-covered, stepped bridge leads up to the living room, and beyond, a steel-enclosed twisting stair reached an ‘eyrie’ for working and relaxing. The six-metre-high west screen opens the view to the harbour, the heath and the sky. The construction cost of the 221-square-metre house was £745,000.

In commissioning Bowles in 2010, Zogolvitch wrote: “I love the combination of the eccentric and the utilitarian. I want the house to be something special. It should incorporate the ‘Eat Live Work’ section that is the trademark of our Solidspace brand. I favour utilitarian over luxury. The elevations should echo the split levels of the house. The texture of the internal spaces is important – in situ concrete is alluring. The concrete evoking the sea wall, the pleasure of beachcombing: picking up sea glass, shells and driftwood. It will root the building to its harbour edge location. The house should be handmade. A holiday home to give family, friends and clients alike the chance of experiencing Solidspace for themselves.”

Additional Images


Mole Architects, Rebecca Granger (executive architect)
Shell Task Artisan Builders, Tekne, The Timber Frame Company
Structural engineer
Sinclair Johnston & Partners
Cost consultant
Orbell Associates
Landscape design
Coe Design
West screen joinery
Architectural metalwork
Fineline Fabrications