Rural Evolution
Two family homes at Swavesey.
Swavesey is a Cambridgeshire village located to the northwest of the county. The village lies on the Greenwich Meridian, has a population of approximately 2,400 and is situated 9 miles to the north west of Cambridge on a narrow clay ridge that was once surrounded by fenland.

The railway that used to pass through Swavesey linking Cambridge with St Ives, now forms part of the guided bus route which serves as the main public transport link with the surrounding area.

The project’s design draws upon the few established and listed traditional character buildings immediately adjacent the site, that merit precedent for the design and have steeply pitched roofs of between 45 and 50 degrees placed parallel, but set back from the main street.

Stacks Image 44
In addition to the traditional roofs, the forms of buildings are based upon agricultural function where ad-hoc additions to main structures use lean-to shallow constructions and other dormitory additions that are clearly part of their extended or changing form to accommodate agricultural functions.

One of the adjacent listed buildings is a pair of attic cottages. Built in C17 initially to form one large space at ground level, these too were adapted in C19 to contain sleeping spaces within the roof and lean-to additions, probably to accommodate an increasing need for habitable space, modern kitchens and utility areas.

The concept for the site makes reference to these established forms creating four principle pitched roof structures, placed in a quadrant. Using the referenced character of additions, coupled with other local material references - red brick, clay tile, and blackened boards. Each pair of structures is connected to form two detached dwellings.
The design and form of the new dwellings have a distinct agricultural narrative, while traditional materials and simple detailing combine to create two modern family homes.


The designs optimise the site’s south west orientation with each principle building taking advantage of an open roof volume to form the main sleeping spaces accessed via a top lit entrance stair. At ground floor, open plan living spaces placed at the rear look outward to the east connecting to the garden. At the front, covered entrances are sheltered adjacent the garage while providing a private threshold to the shared frontage and access. Blind walls at ground floor facing north offer privacy to neighbours, with windows placed predominantly on the south, east and west elevations enabling good daylight and sunlight penetration.
Stacks Image 237
Traditional saddle roofs finished in plain clay tiles have been made abstract with roof finishes wrapping first floor walls with roof eaves to reduce scale. These reference gambrel roof forms found in the village, while materials echo the listed farmhouse nearby.
Use of blackened timber and weathered boarding, mimic barn structures found locally with some openings affixed with external shutters to control daylight and views out.
The ground level walls are predominantly red/brown brick reflecting the chimney stacks of the listed cottages and other traditional village brick buildings.
The project has successfully overcome the difficulties presented by an open plot along an organically evolving village street pattern, coupled with its innovative approach to construction, energy consumption, and materials.
Stacks Image 254
Stacks Image 244
Stacks Image 249