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The Oval Partnership Architecture Ltd is the London studio of an international group of architects, urbanists, designers and researchers.

A member of theOctagonpartnership

©The Oval Partnership Architecture Ltd

ProjectForest House  
BriefNew Timber-Framed Dwelling on a tree-lined, sloping suburban site.
LocationSydenham, London SE26
We have successfully gained planning consent for this  one-off, new-build, low-energy timber-framed and timber-clad, two-storey eco-house in very close proximity to a row of existing mature trees and hedgerow shrubs on a suburban site that was once a narrow lane, now redundant and subject to fly tipping. The aim is to retain all the trees, which are in such close proximity to the proposed dwelling that we commisioned a point-cloud laser scan of them so that we could precisley adjust our design to fit. The building exterior is clad with timber shingles as a rain screen over an impervious waterproof membrane beneath. The intention is that the timber cladding will act as a long-term ‘sacrificial surface’, supporting mosses and lichens. The entire building is constructed off a steel deck suppported on mini-piled foundations to protect the tree roots. Rain water collected from the roofs will be redistributed back under the building.  

We see the project as an interesting case study in the light of London Plan requirements on the one hand to protect and enhance site biodiversity whilst on the other to maximise the efficient use of land in an era of housing shortage. The trees (which run along the southern boundary) also provide much needed summer solar shading, an increasingly critical need as temperatures rise and buildings become more highly insulated.  

We wanted to design a house that facilitated and celebrated the experience of living in such close proximity to trees and other hedgerow plants. Conceptually the aim is to create within the house a journey through trees, responding specifically to the different tree species and other vegetation and their individual characteristics as one moves through the house. Glimpses of the trees outside, filtered sunlight with shadowy silhouettes of vegetation through translucent screens, timber lining of interiors and a blurring of internal and external planting will all help to reinforce this experience.

The roofs are designed so that the textures and habitat of the roof surfaces are visible to occupants, creating a variegated rhythm and horizon when the building is viewed from a distance and bringing daylight and sunlight into the house along its east-west axis.

The approach to the house involves a sequence of thresholds (the outermost being restored Edwardian Gothic brick piers that mark the lane entrance). This accords with the notion of the site as a linear route, a promenade, not an ‘object building’ in the landscape.