Bumpers Oast house in UK by ACME recreates Kentish architecture anew

London-based firm ACME reinterprets the local cone-roofed houses of the Kent region to design the Bumpers Oast house, an example in sustainable and sensitive living.

by Meghna Mehta Published on : Mar 14, 2020

ACME is a London based architecture firm that has reimagined the traditional oast house that originates from the town of Kent in United Kingdom. Their recent project, the Bumpers Oast house, is a 21st century interpretation closely based on the vernacular houses used to dry hops as part of the beer-brewing process. The house pays homage to the tradition of the country albeit with a contemporary twist. ACME created this new home as a part of the rolling landscape surrounded by the apple orchards of Kent. Five shingle-clad towers rise up from the landscape, creating a low-energy modern home.

The property was created for a family that moved to Kent approximately ten years ago and adored the intimacy and idiosyncrasies of living in circular spaces over time.

Vernacular Kentish architecture Oast houses, Sissinghurst Castle, Kent, UK | Bumpers Oast house| ACME architects | STIRworld
Vernacular Kentish architecture Oast houses, Sissinghurst Castle, Kent, UK Image Credit: Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

Friedrich Ludewig, director at ACME said, “Bumpers Oast has allowed the practice to return to its roots, exploring new residential typologies. The form of this building is radically different to its predecessor and was only made possible thanks to a visionary client and an exhaustive research project into the local vernacular.”

Kent-style 41,000 tiles in six different shades were used to create the façade | Bumpers Oast house| ACME architects | STIRworld
Kent-style 41,000 tiles in six different shades were used to create the façade Image Credit: Courtesy of ACME

Expressing and reinterpreting the formal language of Kentish architecture, five towers have been built slightly apart from each other, creating introverted spaces in each tower and an extroverted central space. Each of the towers houses private functions such as bathrooms, bedrooms and service spaces. The centre of the house has been designed as a triple-height living space, visually open to the garden and connecting each of the four towers. The proportions of the tower roundels were based on traditional oast geometries, but stand slightly apart from one another, creating views both inwards and outwards. Each of the towers has a skylight at the top to allow light through the day.

Conical structure of the Bumpers Oast house  | Bumpers Oast house| ACME architects | STIRworld
Conical structure of the Bumpers Oast house Image Credit: Courtesy of Jim Stephenson
The house is both contemporary and proud of its Kent identity. – Friedrich Ludewig, director at ACME
Traditional oast houses were created out of brick turrets with shingle-clad timber roof cones. In order to create a very low energy house, it was decided to construct the entire building as a highly-insulated timber structure. Kent-style tiles in six shades have been used to create the exterior skin, slowly fading from dark red at the base to orange in the centre and blue towards the sky. The designers at ACME relied highly on local craft skills for the laying of the tiles to create smooth transitions, from rectangular tiles for the cylinders to increasingly tapering tiles for the cones.

  • Ground Floor Plan of Bumpers Oast house by ACME in Kent, UK | Bumpers Oast house| ACME architects | STIRworld
    Ground Floor Plan of Bumpers Oast house by ACME in Kent, UK Image Credit: Courtesy of ACME
  • First Floor Plan of Bumpers Oast house by ACME in Kent, UK | Bumpers Oast house| ACME architects | STIRworld
    First Floor Plan of Bumpers Oast house by ACME in Kent, UK Image Credit: Courtesy of ACME
  • First Floor Plan of Bumpers Oast house by ACME in Kent, UK | Bumpers Oast house| ACME architects | STIRworld
    Second Floor Plan of Bumpers Oast house by ACME in Kent, UK Image Credit: Courtesy of ACME

The interior of the roundels is clad in plywood, continuous ply in the cylinders and plywood shingles in the cones. Curved furniture is built into the rooms to use all corners and negative spaces that may be created.

  • Curved structure of the Oasts which enabled the architects to use curved furniture | Bumpers Oast house| ACME architects | STIRworld
    Curved structure of the oasts that enabled the architects to use curved furniture Image Credit: Courtesy of Jim Stephenson
  • Roof of the Bumpers Oast house, UK | Bumpers Oast house| ACME architects | STIRworld
    Roof of the Bumpers Oast house, UK Image Credit: Courtesy of Jim Stephenson

The house has been designed intricately by carefully layering the transition from open to private functions. The positioning and placements of the oasts form open pockets of communal space on the ground floor, shared spaces on the first floor, and secluded treehouse-like retreats on the second floor.

Changing sheets of plywood to adapt to the curved on the ground level and the coned roofs | Bumpers Oast house| ACME architects | STIRworld
Changing sheets of plywood to adapt to the curved on the ground level and the coned roofs Image Credit: Courtesy of Jim Stephenson

The bedrooms are on the first floor, with their own private staircase to an upper level in the roof cone. In the children’s rooms, this creates a play space on the lower level that can later be adapted for study, while the master bedroom is designed with a walk-in wardrobe and en suite bathroom. Helical stairs lead the family into the conical sleeping spaces, with thin balustrades made of gently curving plywood. The bathrooms have been created as open-plan niches with no screens, therefore the room size is designed to match its purpose and allows for in-built storage.

The central common space that connects all the private spaces and functions | Bumpers Oast house| ACME architects | STIRworld
The central common space that connects all the private spaces and functions Image Credit: Courtesy of Jim Stephenson

The technological advancement of the building also stems from its sustainable use of heavily-insulated timber frame structure, which breaks from the tradition of solid bricks walls usually used to construct traditional oast houses. The building is highly insulated, and designed to passive standards of air-tightness as the cones encourage slow air movement and purge ventilation from high level openings during the summer.

  • First Floor Plan of Bumpers Oast house by ACME in Kent, UK | Bumpers Oast house| ACME architects | STIRworld
    Section of Bumpers Oast house by ACME in Kent, UK Image Credit: Courtesy of ACME
  • The common areas on the first level in the children’s room | Bumpers Oast house| ACME architects | STIRworld
    The common areas on the first level below the children’s room Image Credit: Courtesy of Jim Stephenson
  • The bedroom window in one of the conical oasts in the Bumpers Oast house | Bumpers Oast house| ACME architects | STIRworld
    The bedroom window in one of the conical oasts in the Bumpers Oast house Image Credit: Courtesy of Jim Stephenson

Plywood has been used extensively as it is easy to curve, while in the bathrooms, mosaic tiles and micro-cement have been used to accommodate the geometry. The north-facing rooms have been treated with finishes so as to play with reflections from sunlight as it enters the space. All window openings have been revealed with details that fold into the walls to increase the light as it refracts into the rooms.

The project not only upholds the traditional landscape of the region it belongs to but also brings sustainable and more effective replacements that are eco-friendly with astute contemporary design techniques.

  • Window detail that encourages reflection into the rooms. | Bumpers Oast house| ACME architects | STIRworld
    Window detail that encourages reflection into the rooms Image Credit: Courtesy of Jim Stephenson
  • 41,000 tiles in six different shades were used to create the façade  | Bumpers Oast house| ACME architects | STIRworld
    41,000 tiles in six different shades were used to create the façade Image Credit: Courtesy of Jim Stephenson

Project Details

Name of project: Bumpers Oast house
Location: Kent, United Kingdom
Client: Private
Date: 2012-2018
Status: Completed
Size: 230 Sqm
Construction Cost: £900,000
Architect: ACME
Design Team: Alia Centofanti, Nicholas Channon, Deena Fakhro,
Catherine Hennessy, Katrina Hollis, Kevin Leung, Friedrich Ludewig, Lucy
Moroney, Heidrun Schuhmann, Penny Sperbund
Structural Engineer: Akt
Planning Consultants: Barton Willmore
Mep: Furness Green Partnership
Building Control: Wilkinson Construction Consultants
Environmental Consultant: Etude
Contractor: Harry Barnes

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About Author

Meghna Mehta

Meghna Mehta

An architect by education and a journalist by passion, Mehta pursued a crossroad between her two interests. Having completed an M.Arch from CEPT University in Ahmedabad, she has worked in the field of architectural journalism for over 5 years. Besides content generation for STIR, she continues to teach in architectural schools in Mumbai.

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