Private residence, Gidleigh

Until 1986 this group of traditional Dartmoor buildings was disused and left derelict for many years. All are listed as being of historic and architectural importance and are the remnants of an early, humble, high moor farm. The group is rooted in its landscape by its form and its siting and by its organic relationship to historic trackways and ancient windswept Devon banks.

It was in this historic and highly sensitive context that we were asked to repair and develop the whole group for 20 th century use as a house with a separate and independent studio dwelling, workshops, linhay and storage. The work has been phased over the last eight years and is now complete.

The brief was open and flexible but with the objective of creating accommodation which provided for traditional domestic functions primarily in the existing cellular spaces. The new wing and studio barn were to provide versatile and adaptable space for a great variety of uses – spaces with potential for change.

The site is high frequently snowed in. It is subject to extremes of bleakness and storms in winter and sunny, clear, skylark skies in summer, sometimes floating above the clouds in clear blue, sometimes deep in soft mists. The buildings are tucked into a hollow against the prevailing winds and storms, and the building forms are shaped to protect and to merge into the landscape.

Granite and slate quickly become lichen and moss covered and joinery weathers to soft colours. The glass, even in large areas, reflects and recedes and becomes part of the moorland scene. The snug, cave-like interiors have been repaired and enhanced in robust materials, stone, plaster and sawn timber, to reinforce the existing qualities of security and protection.

The studio and the new accommodation open up to the landscape and the sun, bringing the wilderness and the horizons indoors; bright crisp colours, steel and glass combine with the ever changing colours and light of Dartmoor. This contrast of space and light, and of connection with the landscape, with the dark and cosy rooms only glimpsing the outside, creates a heightened sense of both security and awareness of the rich moor.

Contractor: Maddaford & Son (House), Jeffrey & Pengelly (Barns)
Awards: CLA Award 1995, RIBA Regional Award 1995 & Arnold Sayers Award 1995