Stairway to Heaven: Flint House in England
Architects: Skene Catling de la Peña, London-GB
Location: Waddesdon, Buckinghamshire-GB
Client: Lord Rothschild
Landscape design: Mary Keen, Pip Morrison
Interior design: David Mlinaric
Structural design: eHRW Engineers Haskins Robinson Waters, Adam Redgrove, Stephen Haskins
Building engineer: Infrastructure Design Studio, Martin Jones
They seem to have come directly from the tectonic plates beneath the surface. In truth, they are two harmoniously positioned, natural-stone monoliths that can be lived in.
Two stone structures rest in the mystic morning fog in the English landscape near Waddesdon. Because the building material – flint – is seldom seen in England, the two corpora look like traditional rural houses or a centuries-old church ensemble at first glance. Actually, it is the recently completed country house of art collector Lord Rothschild. Intensive collaboration on the part of architects, client, artists and photographers throughout the entire design and building process have led to the creation of this unconventional, sculptural house in the middle of agricultural England. The main house, which measures 465 m², has three bedrooms, a kitchen with dining area, and a library. The 115-square-foot, free-standing annexe offers generous accommodations for guests.
This area is known for its flint deposits, which are what inspired the Skene Catling de la Peña studio to build the country home in the venerable stone, using a unique method to set the house centre stage. The appearance of the stratified natural-stone façade becomes more subtle as its height increases until it seems to dissolve against the sky. Rough-hewn flint embedded in black mortar enhances the plinth area. The proportion of limestone increases with each layer of stone, allowing the rough, dark façade to lighten from black to grey, finally ending in a fine, white texture. The capping plates on the stepped roof incline are in six different colour nuances, completing the melding of the upper part of the house with the sky.
Inside the house, there is only one place where the flint lightened with limestone can be seen: the grotto-like transition space that separates the centrally located, open communal space from the more discreet private areas at the ends of the house. The walls of this corridor flank a stream that flows inside the house. The black glass laid over this shallow indoor brook reflects the surrounding landscape, bringing the outdoors in.