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Location: Fairlight, East Sussex, United Kingdom
Footprint: 530 square feet
From the Architect: "Looking Glass Lodge by Michael Kendrick Architects is a unique woodland retreat and holiday let set discreetly within a natural clearing in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty. Shaped by a low-impact, material-driven and sustainable design approach, the lodge is hidden away from view, blending seamlessly into the protected woodland.
"Set on the edge of a very loose-knit cluster of residential properties, the lodge is located on the grounds of the family home in which the clients grew up. As lifelong residents of the area, the clients’ vision for this holiday let is to enhance the ecological biodiversity of the area, protect wildlife, and enable guests from far and wide to understand and appreciate the fauna, flora, and unique history and nature of the area, while supporting and promoting the local economy. The lodge provides long-term opportunities for local businesses, such as the makers of local food and beverages, whose produce is gifted to guests upon arrival, and in future, local artists whose work will furnish the interiors and be made available to purchase.
"The subtle yet refined design is modest in scale, and makes use of the sloping site where the lodge appears elevated amongst the trees as the ground levels fall away below. Thanks to large picture windows on both the front and rear façade, visitors benefit from stunning natural views from all areas of the lodge, enabling them to fully immerse themselves in the setting. This generous focus on glazing also offers the lodge a sense of distinct transparency, with views straight through the interiors to the woodland beyond helping the lodge to further integrate into its setting. Throughout the year, the lodge is flooded with natural light, while self-tinting electrochromic glass grants privacy and limits overheating and the spill of artificial light as dusk falls.
"The lodge can be accessed from a generous grade-level terrace on its south side, reached on foot by a narrow woodland path. Upon entering, guests are greeted by a simple yet welcoming layout, comprising an open-plan living space, kitchen, sleeping nook and en-suite. At one end, an L-shaped sofa and armchair frame a floating, log-burning stove. This uses timber sourced from fallen trees within the site to heat the whole lodge in the colder months, significantly lowering the lodge’s running costs and creating a comfortable, Scandi-inspired retreat. The bespoke kitchen sits at the lodge’s heart, and though compact, has been carefully configured to provide space to both cook and dine. Designed to sleep two, the lodge uses thoughtful birch-plywood joinery solutions to incorporate plentiful storage, and gently subdivide the layout, to create a more private, bedroom area. Here the adjoining en-suite sees a free-standing bath positioned to make the most of the far-reaching views out across the tree canopies.
"Built by local craftsmen based in Hastings, the lodge features an intentionally limited palette of natural materials, including the same species of timber, western red cedar, on the external cladding and internal lining. Left unfinished, the exterior will weather naturally to a silver-gray color that is reminiscent of the local landscape, which will contrast the cozy, warmer tones of the interior.
"The site’s existing ecology, habitat and treeline were a key consideration throughout the project, from manufacture to completion, to preserve the character of and minimize the impact on the protected landscape. A prime example of this is the design of a hybrid steel/timber-framed structure, which bears down on screw-pile foundations in a low-impact approach that avoids damage to existing tree roots and ensures no trees needed to be felled. Furthermore, by using off-site construction, the project was able to overcome logistical limitations and minimize disruption to the setting.
"Ecologically, the design’s elevated position retains continued and unobstructed access for wildlife crossing the site. The build provided an opportunity for the biodiversity of the site to be enhanced above its current baseline, including the removal of invasive plant species currently on site, and the addition of bat and bird boxes, as part of a site-wide ecological management and enhancement plan that encourages the natural regeneration of the native ground flora."
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