House, Dungeness Beach, Kent

Introduction

Dungeness Beach in Kent is the largest area of shingle in Europe - 1,600 hectares of it. The harsh and dramatic landscape, dominated by the bulk of Dungeness B power station and dotted with a cottage or a fisherman’s weekend hut, is an architectural conservation area and has been designated a Site of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI) to preserve its unique ecology of grasses and shingle plants.

Simon Conder has re-designed a single-storey house on the shingle beach at Dungeness. Originally it was a typical beach bungalow; built in the 1930s before the Town and Country Planning Act. Like many others it had a simple timber frame which had originally been painted with tar, but had subsequently been altered and extended with a hotchpotch of make-do additions.

 

Project description

The original single-storey house was of timber frame construction on a concrete slab, with a masonry chimney. Cladding and roofing were removed and the timber frame was rebuilt and extended to east, west and south. The insulated pitched roof was braced with steel tie rods and clad with EPDM (ethylene propylene diene monomer) synthetic rubber membrane. The timber frame has been insulated and clad internally with spruce ply – this provides all internal finishes – and externally with standard grade external ply. On the outside the walls and the roof are clad with black EPDM synthetic rubber membrane, a technically more sophisticated version of the layers of felt and tar which are found on many of the original huts. There are no gutters to the roof; rainwater simply discharges onto the shingle – the perfect natural drainage bed.

Adjacent to the house was an original fisherman’s shed. This has been preserved and is now the main entrance, linked to the house by means of a frameless glass slot. Inside the simplicity of the original has been maintained; a single bedroom with built-in ply storage, a bathroom with cantilevered bath enclosure, a snug with a wood-burning stove for night-time and a living room and dining/kitchen which merge together as a light, open-plan space. South and west walls of the living room have been replaced with sliding/folding glass doors. They reveal the vast views of shingle and, at high tide, you can just see the sea and possibly one of the huge container ships which seem to glide across the horizon.

Other windows are all designed to frame views; long narrow horizontal windows at sofa level frame the endless horizon and a tall, thin vertical window in the kitchen frames a strange timber mast which stands alone on the beach.

One of the best views is from the bath which is cantilevered over the shingle and has a continuous window slot to give dramatic views to south and west.

The inside of the house – walls, floors, ceilings, doors and joinery – is formed of spruce ply which gives it an exceptionally warm and tactile feel. The ply doors are fitted with stainless steel piano hinges running continuously from top to bottom. Wherever the ply is likely to be handled – at edges of doors and cabinets – it has been framed with softwood lipping which acts as a finger-pull and creates a shadow gap.

The bath is contained in a cantilevered ‘box’ projecting from the side of the house. The box is constructed as a 70 x 70mm RSA and SHS steel frame fixed back to concrete pads with 60.3mm CHS diagonals. The steel frame is infilled with studwork and insulation and clad internally and externally with plywood. The edge of the bath is lined with ply which conceals the frame of the continuous window slot.

WC and basin outlets are concealed behind removable ply panels, creating a deep wall which accommodates a cabinet with a hinged ply door and a perforated ply screen to the window.

Completion Date:

2003

Year Published:

October 2006

Building Type:

Single storey house

Location:

Dungeness Beach, Kent

Country:

England

Client:

Private

Architect:

Simon Conder Associates

Timber Element(s):

Structure Interior fittings & linings Doorsets and windows

Timber Specie(s):

Spruce ply & standard grade ply

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