An elegant cantilevered box provides a low-impact residence on a sensitive site


Martin Gardner

A replacement dwelling by Strom Architects, ‘The Quest’ occupies a wooded site south of Swanage, Dorset, overlooking Durlston Country Park. Early in the project the advantages of a single-storey building were clear: it would suit the retired clients’ future needs, and it could generate an elegant solution to the steeply-sloping site, with a simple arrangement of spaces. At the same time, the impact from across the valley would be minimised.


The presence on the site of protected mature trees largely dictated the positioning of the dwelling. Access is via the front of the property, so a retaining wall, faced in local Purbeck stone, was introduced to define different levels and mask the vehicular route, maintaining a clear view from the living spaces across the valley. The cantilever, that allows the house to reach over the retaining wall was achieved by employing two planes of concrete – the floor and roof – which act together structurally. The frame is infilled with timber panels, leaving the concrete visible externally.

The regional RIBA awards panel commented that “the design has surpassed the aspirations of the client, providing flexible 8-metre-deep open-plan living in a warm and comfortable environment. Extreme purity and intelligence has been at work and the result is an almost effortless sense of space with no split levels. There are solar panels for power, discreetly placed on the roof, with underfloor heating throughout, except for the pantry which is snugly fitted into the rear of the kitchen plan and is a naturally cool space. The house is heated by CH&P and a log fire in the living area. The chimney stack neatly conceals the exchange unit as well as providing for the open fire. The floor of the main spaces is locally-sourced Purbeck limestone which provides thermal mass in the winter and summer months.”

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