This project is on the longlist for the RIBA 2016 House of the Year Award.
Project DescriptionFROM THE ARCHITECTS:
Le Petit Fort sits on the shoreline of St Ouen’s bay, and occupies the site of an earlier (now demolished) farmstead. This was constructed in the early 20th century and enclosed within thick granite walls, which have been retained and restored. The house was conceived to complete the concept of the ‘fort’ by building the missing fourth wall of the enclosure and creating a central element representing a ‘keep’.
This three-storey entrance block, like the perimeter walls, is constructed from Jersey granite, reclaimed from the earlier building. A pair of two-storey wings radiate from this block, dividing the walled enclosure into an entrance forecourt and a sheltered garden, and enclosing a landscaped pool terrace. The two wings use a contrasting palette of contemporary materials: polished microcement render to the ground floor sits below an oversailing and highly textured first floor using Corten panels and Iroko panelling. The first floor shelters the entrance and ground floor terraces, while the deep eaves shade a first floor balcony and enhance the building’s distinctive silhouette.
The composition offers a lively series of contrasting profiles from different viewpoints. From the entrance the fort-like character dominates, picking up references to nearby Napoleonic Martello towers and WWII fortifications. Small windows set into the Corten panelling lend the house a robust and intriguing presence. From the beach, the house appears as a low-set watchtower, with the keep and first floor peering over the top of the granite walls. From the pool terrace, the building assumes an altogether more welcoming and transparent character, as the two wings embrace the pool courtyard, overlooked by extensive full-height glazing to the first floor.
Inside, the main family living area occupies the first floor of the sea-facing wing, with impressive views across the bay through full-height windows leading onto a balcony and terrace. The open plan space is broken up by level changes, low dividing walls and a feature fireplace facing two sitting areas. The master bedroom suite in the opposite wing is linked by a large landing providing additional relaxation space. The ground floor contains family bedrooms, a media room, sauna, laundry and plant room.
The main floors are linked by a stunning spiral staircase, built from oak and Corten, and lit from above by a conical lantern rising through the ‘keep’ and capped by a large rooflight. A smaller yet similarly finely crafted concrete spiral staircase is tucked away, leading to a study and guest bedroom suite at the top of the house. Exceptional craftsmanship is evident everywhere – from the staircases to exposed brickwork on the ground floor and extensive bespoke oak joinery throughout.