Pennyfathers Lane, Welwyn

  • Value: Undisclosed
  • Client: Private
  • Status: Planning

This project is a refurbishment and extension to a Grade II-Listed house designed by Sir David & Mary Medd in Pennyfathers Lane, North Welwyn in Hertfordshire. The pair are widely renowned as the most influential school architects of the 20th century. The house, built in the 1950s for themselves, is one of their few excursions from educational spaces.

The site is a generous plot within an agricultural setting. The existing dwelling is composed of a main house and workshop annex both built in London stock brick during the post-war austerity period.
The design proposals for the new owners adapt the original house to accommodate their growing family, preserving its essence and upgrading to 21st century standards, and also adding an extension to the northern area of the garden connecting into the existing house.

The proposed extension is composed of three discrete masonry rooms delicately placed in to the landscape. Each double-pitched volume aligns to either the Listed Building or the northern boundary, following the slight curvature in the topography on which the main house sits. Likewise, the position of a mature walnut tree and two silver birches informs the interstice between the elements, resulting in a sequence of recessed and more prominent rooms breaking away from the continuous frontage of the main house.

The rooms are connected together and to the main house by a lower sinuous structure made of slender carpentry components, continuously glazed which establishes strong visual connections through the site. With no specific function, the intermediate spaces created allow for a range of uses by the family. Subtle changes of direction arising from the main rooms create a direct relationship to the existing building arrangement in both its plan and roof geometries. The new components sit on a continuous low concrete plinth of fine exposed-aggregate that mediates with the gentle change of level, forming exterior areas to the open landscape or around the walnut tree and light wells serving subterranean rooms.

The plinth also seamlessly connects the interior space into the existing structure of pathways along and across the site. The arrangement of buildings and paths on the site results in a refined affirmation of the various instances of the landscape: domestic (open garden), productive (allotments) & wild (woodland).