Hanging on the extremities of England’s south coast, the vast shingle waste of Dungeness is Britain’s only desert. This surreal landscape includes the garden created by Derek Jarman, eel smoker’s huts, forlorn fishing boats, and rusting containers edged on its land-side periphery by a quietly tootling minature steam railway. Whilst where the shifting headland meets the sea fishermen cast their rods into the choppy waters, said to be warmed by the effluent from the local nuclear power station. A handful of converted weatherboard shacks and a couple of extant light houses are the only other structures to break these ‘big skies’, creating the expectation of a cinematic American wilderness rather than a weekend at the Kent seaside.
The young Glasgow based architectural practice NORD’s addition to this unique landscape is wholly attuned to the immediate vernacular of single storey fisherman’s huts, built to withstand the particular conditions of this unsheltered weather beaten site. Tarred timber cut shingles and timber boards repeat the local custom of entirely cloaking a structure’s exterior. Shingle House’s internal core of polished concrete is, until one enters, suggested only by the concrete chimney which rises above the tarred exterior and references the muted tones of Dungeness’ shingle, power station, and steely skies. Inside, the house sleeps eight people and the palette of the simple but comfortably appointed rooms takes its reference from the plantlife which colours the shingle in summertime.
Shingle House was built following a commission from Alain De Botton under the auspices of his Living Architecture Project which aims to promote the enjoyment of exemplary modern architecture to the masses through the commissioning of holiday homes available to rent for up to one week. The designs for these homes have come from an intriguing range of architects ranging from the young and promising Nord to the established Michael and Patty Hopkins, Dutch based architects MRVDV, and the architect of the current Serpentine Gallery Pavillion Peter Zumthor.
Shingle House has been awarded the Scottish Design Award for Best Residential Project 2011 and a RIBA (South East) Award.
Image: Nord, The Shingle House, 2010. Courtesy of Living Architecture
Text by Danielle Hewitt