Platform 5 on a pedestal – Backwater
Platform 5 Architects LLP took the honours for ‘Custom & Self Build Project of The Year’ in the Structural Timber Awards 2017, for their ingenious design of ‘Backwater’ – a stunning house on an exceptional yet challenging site in the Norfolk Broads.
Situated on a small promontory in a secluded lagoon, the house is arranged as three low-rise bays beneath a series of pitched roofs, which are reminiscent of nearby boat sheds. The property offers a contemporary counterpoint to more traditionally designed neighbouring houses, while respecting the peaceful natural setting.
Patrick Michell, partner at Platform 5 Architects LLP said: “We set out to do something really exceptional and it is great to have this recognition for the many challenges that we overcame on this project. The judges also commended the high level of detailing on the scheme.”
Designed with a lightweight timber frame sitting on a piled ground structure, the house is clad in black-stained timber shingles, a traditional material forming a unifying ribbon element that emphasises its classic Broads silhouette.
On the lagoon elevation, extensive glazing gives a more transparent appearance from the waterfront, and a deep canopy creates a sheltered outdoor area which is ideal for enjoyment of the setting and the elements.
The house is raised above the waterline, allowing floodwater to flow beneath a landscaped timber deck. Its remote, largely off-grid location required on-site sewage treatment and a water borehole, whilst a timber stove provides additional heating.
Patrick Michell said: “The house, which has a footprint of approximately 165 sq m and includes three bedrooms, is situated on a wedge-shaped site, with the design being adapted to this shape and geared to open up to the southerly views over the water.”
The property is split into three bays, each with a slightly different pitched roof, and is entered through a hall leading into the three bedrooms, bathrooms and utility space. The kitchen and dining space is centrally located and leads onto a covered veranda. The third wing contains the living room and a smaller ‘snug’ library/workspace area.
Patrick Michell continued: “The location of the site, ground conditions and access were massive challenges of the project, which meant that everything had to be carefully planned from the outset – bearing in mind that the maximum size of vehicle which could be used to transport materials to site was a 3.5 tonne transit van.
“The ground conditions comprised 4m peat, with sand beneath and bedrock 12m below this. The works included the demolition of an existing building on the site – and as soon as this was demolished and removed, the ground sank and the water level rose, leaving no visual reference points for the piling works needed. This greatly complicated the sinking of 52 piles into the bedrock (through part water and part swamp). These works took around six months and delayed the programme.
“The piles were then capped and a galvanised steel sub-frame was installed on top to support the landscaping and decking areas, as well as the house.
“All of the steel needed had to be carefully sized so that it could be transported by van or small open topped small truck down the small access road to the site.”
The installation of the semi-submerged sewage treatment plant next to the river was also fairly challenging.
However, everything else went smoothly with the construction programme once these difficulties were overcome.