This beautifully renovated house in England's Norfolk Broads was once a remote water-pumping mill that also served as a home for the keeper of the mill until 1900, when the advent of electricity rendered wind-powered pumps obsolete. Meeting the end of its useful life, the house was transformed in 2009 by ACME Space into a modern, private residence, that not only maintains its historic character, but also has been renovated to be almost completely self-sufficient.
The Norfolk Broads is a collection of navigable rivers, lakes, and wetlands located in the east of England. Originally formed as an artificial landscape, this beautiful manmade wetland was historically sustained through human intervention — both careful and callous. As the wetlands depleted due to industrial use, there was an eventual shift in thought that sought to conservation and manage a retreat back to nature. The Hunsett Mill project was founded as part of this movement to administer to the local flood ecology, and it created an iconic structure that was deeply embedded in the local context.
The Hunsett Mill is definitively an important piece of local heritage. When the renovation first took place, it was decided that the historic building must be kept in tact. The structure was extended and the addition was designed to retreat behind the existing mill as a shadow. By adding a dark volume to the existing brick volume and the inherent geometry, the exact shape of the extension volume goes undetected from afar. However, when seen up close it is clear that the design aptly references the local vernacular with its pitched roofs and dark timber boards, putting the new building at ease in its context.
Self-sufficient in terms of energy, water and waste management, the project creates an active and positive effect on the local ambience and ecology. The careful design and selection of materials considers its embodied energy and method of construction as well as its efficiency during occupation. The extension is made entirely from solid laminated wood, exposed as interior finish and clad in charred cedar boards externally. Ground source heat pumps, passive solar heating and independent water well supply almost completely release the home from any dependency on outside sources.
Photos: © Cristobal Palma