By Ewan Cameron Architects of Glasgow Scotland
Set in the glorious grounds of Capel Manor House in rural England is a simple but ultra stylish example of modern house architecture. This is in the form of a modernist/minimalist pavilion for the fortunate guests of television producer Remy Blumenfeld. The grounds are typical of an English stately home and designed to give extreme pleasure throughout the changing seasons. It was these spectacular views that largely directed the modern architectural form the guest pavilion would take. The architects ‘Ewan Cameron’ saw the structure as primarily a frame through which the outside world could be brought into focus and fully appreciated by visitors to the pavilion.
The grounds surrounding Capel Manor House are typically grand in their landscape design. The main buildings on the site are fascinating as they represent a ‘potted history’ of architectural development. The original Italianate Manor House is sadly in ruins but a significant ‘example of modern house architecture, by the architect Michael Manser, replaced it in 1971. This ‘Modernist’ house in itself has achieved architectural renown since it was originally designed for an eminent British MP.
Bearing all this in mind, the design for the new guest pavilion had to meet multiple criteria. The structure had to be a place that would provide a tranquil environment for visitors. It had to be compatible with the historic existing architecture and also be harmonious with the fabulous landscaped gardens. The architects, Ewan Cameron’s solution was to construct a simple and stylish single storey pavilion which sits unobtrusively within the gardens. The guest house was directly inspired by Japanese architecture in particular the temples and Zen gardens of Kyoto. It is a fine example of modern house architecture and is largely minimalist in concept
The house is approached through a romantic woodland passageway. The first façade encountered is to the rear of the pavilion which is completely unadorned, its design deliberately low profile to allow the structure to unite with the garden. An open passage at the centre of the pavilion allows access to the front elevation. The walls are constructed from Beton Brut concrete. This has a rough texture which provides a foil for the less dense glass and zinc elements. An imprint of wood grain remaining from the timber shutters makes a subtle connection to the surrounding woodland.
Within this modernist pavilion there are two substantial and private guest suites, each is entered separately through revolving timber doors. In typical Japanese fashion, each space is subdivided by screens into a dressing area and gorgeous bathroom. Each bathroom features a luxurious hand-crafted white Jaipur marble bath and basins.
However, the ultimate luxury and pleasure has to be gained from the uninterrupted views of captivating landscape through the floor to ceiling glass walls. This tasteful example of modern house architecture sits lightly on the earth. Its minimalist construction suggests a lack of mass and density. This is exaggerated further by a roof structure that appears to be floating. So, through sensitivity to the site and marrying eastern and western design principles, the architects achieved their goal and clearly created a delicate structure which becomes “a frame through which we contemplate nature.”