Bee Architects was delighted to be presented with a unique opportunity to redesign a project in Letchworth, the first Garden City in the world. The challenge was taking an already granted project (from a planning perspective) that did not gain the Heritage Commission approval; constraints were related to keeping the general size and shape but changing the appearance of the building.
We had to find the balance between creating a modern space, suited to contemporary living and function whilst keeping the ethos of the house. Although the house itself is not a listed building, the built area where it sits was created more than a hundred years ago which created a burden of expectation, where we had to perform in tune to the existing street-scene and protect the old image of the house within its context.
The overall brief was to extend the house with a small side and a rear two-storey extension. A white, neutral strip was added to the side, visible from the street, whilst at the back - in complete contrast - a modern addition embodied the new space. The dialogue with the street became muted and discreet but the rear part of the building took its right to contemporary living.
We found the white textured boards as a good transformation of the existing white painted roughcast very specific for the Garden City in general and for this house in particular. The extension was simple and almost austere, with no ornaments, mouldings, profiles or old details, just a simple shape highlighting and valuing the original building. The siding towards the rear is bridging the old with the new, creating a transition to the modern part of the house and the garden.
A large part of the process was a positive, continuous engagement with Letchworth Garden City Heritage Foundation and we adjusted our design to suit the local community; this was shaped and fine-tuned by many site visits and conversations with the Heritage Foundation and the final result meant that the design passed all the expectations.
Internally almost everything was reconsidered, creating a large, open plan living ground floor, with a light and airy design for the staircase, creating a floating-like structure, augmented by plants who create yet another connection to the greenery outside and the Garden City.