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A&AJ Critical Writing, Architecture & Design

Living Architecture: Jarmund/Vigsnæs Architects. The Dune House. Thorpeness, Suffolk

When Nordic Architects JVA were commissioned to build a holiday home amongst the dunes on the southern edge of Thorpeness in Suffolk it was a sense of whimsy that came to shape the architecture. They became fond of the gabled roofs of the houses and beach huts found throughout the area and chose the gable form for Dune House, as a “romantic interpretation” of English architecture. The design may be based on a nostalgic view of heritage England but JVA‘s building offers a fresh take on this format. The complex geometry of the house’s roofscape is clad in a tinted orange steel alloy that reflects the ever changing sky and sea. The ground floor of glass, aluminum, and concrete is settled down into the dunes to give a sense of being nestled amongst the landscape, and is glazed on all sides, giving panoramic views across beach and sea, while the timber upper floor appears to float above the dunes.

A trip to Thorpeness has been a popular jaunt for British holiday makers since the early 1900s when the Scottish barrister and playwright Glencairne Stuart Ogilvie built his ideal holiday village in arts and crafts style. Ogilvie had a shallow lake dug where visitors could row between artificial islands named after characters from Peter Pan. A bizarre heavily gabled weatherboard folly, The House in the Clouds, sits as a disguise on top of the 70-foot high village water tower lest its contemporary vernacular functionality upset the idyll. Visitors to Thorpeness today can still while away days messing about on the mere, strolling amongst the mock Tudor and Jacobean houses, and can rent the house in the water tower.

Living Architecture is a project led by the writer Alain De Botton and Dune House was commissioned as a holiday home to offer the public a first hand experience of contemporary domestic architecture. Dune House sleeps eight people and is available to rent for stays of up to seven days.

Image: The Dune House, 2011. Jarmund/Vigsnæs Architects. © Living Architecture



Text by Danielle Hewitt

About Danielle Hewitt

I am an artist, writer, and architectural historian. My interests and practice lay at the intersections of art, literature, architecture, and landscape. In the field of architecture I am particularly engaged in questions of conservation and re-use. I currently co-ordinate the Postgraduate Diploma programme in the Conservation of Historic Buildings at the Architectural Association, London.


One thought on “Living Architecture: Jarmund/Vigsnæs Architects. The Dune House. Thorpeness, Suffolk

  1. Whatever the experience of living in the Dune House is- the experience for me, as a local resident, I am sorry to say, is not pleasant one. With no reference to the vernacular or the site, this building and its bunker like add on, is like an industrial scar. I wholeheartedly support the concept of the Living Architecture project, but please can we have better architecture.

    Posted by Eileen Haring Woods | August 4, 2011, 10:20 am

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