Bold House Doubles as a British Town's Welcome Sign

This prefabricated dwelling is the first thing visitors see upon entering Lewes, East Sussex.
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Sandy Rendel Architects replaced an old workshop with a striking new home in Lewes, East Sussex, England. The structure is located right at the edge of the town, in a spot that formerly functioned as a wharf to an adjacent quarry. Due to its prominent siting, the planning authority wanted to see a bold design that would signal the town's entrance. The building shell, made of SIPS, was prefabricated offsite, allowing for significant time savings in construction.

The architects designed the house to complement its natural backdrop: Cliffe Hill towers over the structure. The profile of the second story reflects this mountainous setting. "Our approach aimed to respect the scale and form of the surrounding buildings with a reinterpretation of the local vernacular," architect Sandy Rendel says of the project, "and at the same time echo the contours of the dramatic chalk cliff behind the carved asymmetry of the roof forms."  

A palette of natural materials is employed in both the interior and exterior. An oak wall and staircase, designed by Jeremy Pitts, join a floor made of gray terrazzo tile.  

A young family resides in the five-bedroom house: Stephen, who works in advertising, Anita, a lawyer who works in financial services, two young children, and two basset hounds. The open-plan ground level is meant to be flexible, and its layout can be adapted as the family's needs change over time. Floor-to-ceiling windows overlook the river that runs right by the structure.  

The upper story is clad in a decorative rainscreen of Cor-Ten steel mesh, chosen in part for its tone, which complements the red clay brick used locally. "The external materials were all selected to be robust and self-finished," says Rendel. "They will weather naturally, develop character and patina, and require very little maintenance."  

Along the road, the exterior walls are covered with ash-glazed Sussex brickwork, which "gives a softer texture and more intimate scale to the street," Rendel says.  


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