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Project: The Spence House

Built in 1961 as a holiday house for his own use by celebrated architect Sir Basil Spence (1907-76) on the north bank of the Beaulieu river in 1961, the Spence House is quintessentially 1960s – open plan, flat roofed and strip windowed. The house was Grade 2 listed in 1998. The client required a new wing to provide two bedrooms and a bathroom that would link to the main house. The new cedar clad bedroom wing is designed with the ambition to celebrate the sunrise and spectacular views down-river each morning for the awakening owners through a large framed opening and is accessed by a new glazed bridge link. The main house was completely refurbished and the outdoor swimming pool rebuilt.

The Spence House is quintessentially 1960s- geometric, strip windowed, flat roofed and open planned. It owes its form to Scandinavian modernism much admired by Spence for its empathy with nature and clear precedents for the house can be seen in the work of the Danish architect Arne Jacobsen of the 1950s, which explored the idea of a timber box perched over masonry bearing walls rooted into the earth. Spence’s design creates a slightly mono-pitched timber box containing a row of bedrooms and bathrooms opening into a large open plan living area, supported on and over-sailing two white painted brick walls built parallel to the contours of the site, that contained boat storage and workshop space. The composition is anchored by a brick chimney rising from the masonry wall which, within becomes a miraculous concrete cantilevered fireplace engineered by Ove Arup. Spence only lived in the house for about five years and during that time made several alterations and additions including the glazing-in of the first floor balcony to enlarge the living space, the enclosure of the first floor kitchenette area to provide a small bedroom, the replanning of the ground level workshop space to provide kitchen and dining facilities and the addition of an octagonal timber stair tower containing a spiral staircase, to the east end of the house.

The extension is designed as a private wing for the owner and his children, as the main house becomes occupied, rather ironically, by relatives and guests. It provides two bedrooms and a large bathroom, with the ambition to celebrate the sunrise and the spectacular view down-river each morning for the awakening owners. The wing is subserviently sited on the rising ground to the eastern end of house. The former kitchenette in the main house is converted into a small study and its former window opened up to provide access to a new glazed bridge link connecting to the new wing. The extension is conceived as a simple timber box that aligns in elevation with the cantilevered box of the main house, but here in untreated cedar boarding. In order to avoid the slightly clumsy quality resultant from timber framed construction, the new wing is built using an elegant, slender steel portal frame, infilled with timber. Winner of an RIBA Regional Award 2001.

PROJECT DETAILS Client: Status: Contract value:

Ari + Heba Zaphiriou Zarifi Completed 2000 ÂŁ400,000.00

Structural Engineer: Contractor:

Adams Kara Taylor Lentune Building Services Ltd.

Spence House  

Built by Sir Basil Spence (1907-76) on the north bank of the Beaulieu river in 1961, the Spence House is quintessentially 60’s; open plan, f...

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