Cork is a "magic" material that is "stable, durable, insulating, breathable but not water permeable," according to the UK-based architect Lisa Shell. Commissioned to design a small beach house for a flood-prone plot on the edge of Essex, it is no wonder she and the client opted for cross-laminated timber (CLT) and cork as the main building materials that give the home a gentle strength in harmony with the surrounding ecosystem.
The artist couple who commissioned the design, which replaces a “dilapidated timber framed 1920s beach house”, wanted a weekend home that would “surpass planning requirements in terms of flood risk mitigation, building control requirements in terms of part L, and expectations in terms of design innovation,” Lisa Shell told Inhabitat. She designed the home to resemble a “hide” that provides the residents with “privacy, peace, and a sense of isolation and distance.” But it also had to overcome a few site challenges – including floods that recently swathed the area in a meter of water, according to The Guardian.
Elevated on red steel stilts like a Redshank wader, the home is constructed in CLT with a 180mm thick expanded cork agglomerate overcoat. The cork panels are created from the by-product of wine cork production in Portugal, according to Shell, using only heat and compression to form a chemical bond between cork chips. Unusually, the designers decided not to apply a polyurethane coating to the panels, resulting in a bleached grey color facade with black flecks.
An airtight enclosure, Redshank is heated with a small wood burning stove – reducing the energy required to keep the space warm.
The new house increases the amount of land available to fauna and flora within the Sites of Special Scientific Interest (SSSI). “Within two months of completion, sparrows have already taken up residence in one of the integrated nesting boxes,” writes Shell. “It was also important that support was won for the unconventional design from the community of both permanent and occasional residents in the small hamlet.”
Images via Marcus Taylor