Hi-tech sustainable design features at MiCasa, England
London-based architectural practice, Stephen Davy Peter Smith Architects, has designed the MiCasa project. Completed in 2013, the hi-tech sustainable home in Hertfordshire, England has been designed to showcase the owners’ collection of artworks and artefacts.
The architect was commissioned by Peter and Melanie Domb to design a house of modern design, with minimal impact on the environment and able to accommodate their burgeoning art collection.
The brief was developed from a basic requirement for a three-bedroom house with generous room sizes – the client was interested in space, not number of rooms. The project took 21 months from design to build.
Peter Smith, architect, said to Adelto: “The simple traditional forms of the house are related to the buildings of the village and the farms beyond. The black zinc cladding is assembled with traditional detailing and a modern twist, the darkness of the house is a backdrop to the colours of the landscaped garden.”
The Dombs had a strong preference for a contemporary design. Despite being a modern building however, the house has a familiar feel. The pitched roof has traditional connotations and the black façade is reminiscent of the silhouettes of local barns and agricultural buildings, which are typically very dark in colour, appearing almost black on the horizon.
The architect’s experience in housing enabled it to design a home that responds to practical living needs. The house allows for flexibility in the future, with open plan living and a combined kitchen and entertaining space supplemented by an enclosed private snug.
The interior design is comprised of several flowing spaces, which interlink and flow out to the external patio and garden from the kitchen and dining area. Internally, the rooms step down to each other in response to the sloping site. The building is very narrow and despite its black monolithic appearance, the large windows offer generous views out and views right through the building from outside.
The Dombs are well travelled and have a large collection of individual pieces of artwork to display. With no theme to connect them (like a mini Burrell collection), the house is designed to double as a gallery space, with bespoke places to display their treasures. This process was ongoing through the design process and the stair storage wall was redesigned to accommodate an Olympic torch during the project.
An abundance of natural light was paramount. Extensive areas of glazing, rooflights and a solar tube to the dressing area ensure the contemporary English home is flooded with natural light. The entrance hall and living space are double height – right up to the underside of the roof, which accentuates the feeling of generous space and light.
Melanie is a keen gardener and the house is designed have a clear relationship to the exterior, with large doors leading out from the living room and kitchen onto the garden, terraces and patio. The building makes use of the change in ground level and bisects the site, separating the public front from the private back and creating upper and lower gardens.
The construction is a hybrid of block work, steel and traditional timber, including various sustainable features. A new borehole provides fresh water for the house, with soakaways for rainwater discharge, a heat recovery system and zoned underfloor heating.
The client was keen on materials that are maintenance free. The black zinc cladding is both recyclable and has elements of recycled materials contained within it. The simple form was continued through into the crisp detailing of the zinc, with concealed gutters.
The dog is a hugely important member of the Domb family and some ‘doggy’ influences are manifest in the design, including low-level glazing which allows the dog to see out. Interestingly, he does use these features and goes from window to window to police the garden.
The Dombs are hugely proud of their new home. The design is the product of a constructive relationship where both client and architect influenced each other in the creating the final appearance and function of the house.
Images courtesy of © Lyndon Douglas Photography
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