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Field House

Field House
Written by Roma Publications

Field House

In 2017 architect James Risebero oversaw the completion of his family’s brand new home. It was the culmination of over three years of work and marked the significant project to date for his architectural practice Field Studio.

Located in picturesque South Devon, Field House is a replacement dwelling that is constructed almost entirely from wood. Spread across one-and-a-half storeys, the property uses a palette of simple, utilitarian materials combined into a modern, vernacular form. The use of wood, however, is one of Field House’s most striking features and has not gone unnoticed. Earlier this year Field House was recognised with a Structural Timber Award nomination in the ‘Private Housing Project of the Year’ category.

To find out more about this achievement and the project as a whole, Premier Construction spoke to James Risebero. He began by outlining how the work first came about:

“I moved down to Devon and was working for a local firm, Gillespie Yunnie Architects, but always on the lookout for potential plots to build on. Eventually we found a site containing a dilapidated 1950’s bungalow and several ugly concrete outbuildings. What it had going for it though was really good orientation, amazing views and 2.7 acres of land. We applied for permission to replace the bungalow and, because of the outbuildings, we were able to justify the creation of a larger dwelling on the grounds that it was actually a smaller footprint overall.

“We had no clear idea at the beginning what we wanted to build. It was an unusual process for me because normally one has a lot of constraints and context to work with. But in this case, once we’d demolished the bungalow, we were faced with building more-or-less in an open field. The challenge became figuring out the scale and feel of the building. How does it fit into the rural landscape? Will it ever gain a sense that it belongs? One constant was that we felt it needed to be a simple, vernacular form – hence the barn-like pitched roof and lack of articulation. It’s very unpretentious with little extraneous detailing or unnecessary materials”.

The design process took approximately two years and included a number of different versions. Construction commenced in 2016 and was completed in a little less than twelve months. One of the benefits of the extensive use of cross-laminated timber (CLT) was that it helped speed up the overall build. James continued:

“The other constant was that it would be constructed from cross-laminated timber – a material that has always appealed to me. We allowed that decision to inform the design in terms of how the building was laid out and how the services worked. You need to start thinking about those things very early on with cross laminated timber.

“In essence, the plan is two living spaces connected by a wide circulation zone forming an L shape. One of the living spaces contains the staircase and opens up into the roof void, connecting the kitchen and dining area with a first floor study. The bedrooms all work within the confines of the pitched roof and have a cosier and more intimate feel.

“This has been a challenging project for me. It being my own house I felt the need to explore a lot of different typologies. Building in a field, it does take a while for it to feel like it works on the site. Part of that is to do with landscaping and that is something we keep changing our minds about.”

James set up Field Studio in 2013 having previously worked for some of the most prestigious firms in the UK. Alongside Field House, the practice has completed a number of projects in both the Southwest and further afield. Recognition from the Structural Timber Awards is a welcome bonus for a practice still in its infancy, as James concluded:

“It’s very important to me, especially having gone out on my own. I am one man band and you can be a bit isolated working in rural Devon so it’s important to have a sense of connection with the wider profession.”

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Field House

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