Ullswater House

The Ullswater House was commission as a private family home. Located on the north shore of Ullswater, in the Lake District National Park, the property is in a truly remote and rural area of the UNESCO World Heritage site.

Our clients’ brief was to deliver a four-bedroom property, with study, separate leisure areas for social and private relaxing and a cinema room. The building was to be high-tech but with sustainable and environmental heating and automation systems.

Although located on a generous plot, the remote location and the proximity to a traditional Lakeland Arts and Crafts villa prohibited a simple large detached contemporary building. To deliver the schedule of accommodation and respect the adjacent properties, the concept was developed to present a house with the appearance of a traditional building with its local vernacular appearance, complimented by a contemporary wing. Beneath this building a subterranean floor was discreetly hidden, which provided a cinema room, large games room and snug.

The house and accommodation were thus divided into three discrete areas which were seamlessly linked. The first of these, giving the external impression of a traditional cottage, consisted of a study, formal sitting room and bedroom accommodation. The second area, being the dramatic large open plan space, contained the informal lounge, kitchen, and open-plan dining room. The third area, the lower ground floor, contained the additional leisure space. Although subterranean, light floods into this basement level via an internal staircase with a dramatic rooflight above and a sunken external courtyard which is accessed from the games room. The internal staircase penetrates these three distinct areas at the intersection of the traditional and contemporary, allowing light to flood all areas and link these spaces together.

The key feature of this building was to accentuate the beautiful panorama of Ullswater which formed the backdrop to the contemporary open-plan kitchen dining room. A highly detailed bespoke cantilevered steel frame, designed by M&P Gadsden Consulting Engineers, was weighted back to the foundations to provide an enormous 6m x 6m free opening corner to the kitchen dining space. The glazing slides back to open the unsupported freestanding corner and open the house to the vista beyond.

The orientation of the building and large glazed areas maximise the daylight and views, without compromising on thermal comfort or the risk of overheating. The building envelope, both solid and glazed elements, are highly insulated to optimise the efficiency of the building’s performance and reduce the demand for additional heating. Reducing carbon emissions is a key principle in Ben Cunliffe Architects’ design ethos. This starts from concept design of passive design strategies of form and orientation and carries through to the active systems installed into the building, through to the building fabric and construction process.

The completed scheme fulfilled the brief in delivering an energy efficient modern house with architectural significance, providing a substantial footprint whilst appearing deceptively modest and unobtrusive in its setting and landscape.