A house in a small woodland setting where trees and people live side-by-side.
On the south-west outskirts of Hemel Hempstead the expanding town meets the fields and woodlands that lead towards the Chiltern Hills. Once the site of a Roman villa and later Boxmore House, the rural land was subdivided in the 1940’s into plots for detached homes, leaving parts of the woodland intact in their large gardens. In the 1970’s these plots were further subdivided with cul-de-sac developments filling up both sides of Box Lane.
The 1970’s cul-de-sac layout left one plot undeveloped and covered with a mix of mature Beech, Horse Chestnut and Sycamore trees. Previous owners sought to fell the trees and build another house but planners refused and protection orders were placed on the trees. We took on the project to design a home on this site, imaging that the trees were as much our client as the landowner, and that the right design could allow people and trees to co-exist. The planners agreed and planning permission was granted.
Careful mapping of the trees both above and below ground established zones of space where building might be possible and where foundations would be less likely to encounter tree roots. No one area was big enough for the whole home so it was split into two parts: a living building and sleeping quarters, connected by a circular walkway that ringed the largest tree on the land.
Elevating the house on stilts allowed the ground to remain intact, a home for Dog’s Mercury, Periwinkle and Herb Robert. The new raised datum of a deck and walkways would be the human realm, allowing the residents to float through the branches at the level of the trees and gain access to the leaf-filtered light.