Friday, July 31, 2009

My architectural inspiration - Skywood House





This is Skywood House, designed by architect Graham Phillips (who at the time worked for Sir Norman Foster) for himself and built in around 1999.

This is a very famous house, situated in 5 acres off the M25 freeway near a town called Denham about an hour from London. It has won countless awards and been featured in a number of books, including the excellent See Through Houses by Catherine Slessor (2001) which I highly recommend if you are into this style of architecture. Skywood House received a lot of publicity in the early 2000s but has not been much discussed in the last few years.

I only recently found that Skywood has its own website. Not surprising for a house which has been used so regularly for location shoots that its owners often have to move to a neighbouring annex. Whilst I confess that took a bit of magic away for me, it is hard to blame the owners for taking advantage of the opportunity.

Anyway it is hard to describe how much I love this house. And 10 years later I think it still looks incredible. It has not dated at all. If anything, architecture has now caught up with it.

These shots are from the website:



































This house meets all my architectural requirements for a new build: it is white, clean lined, set in a green oasis, has lots of glass, a completely flat roof, a major water element (the lake is man made) and has a strong Mies Van Der Rohe influence. Graham Phillips built it like a kit home, assembling component structural steel and other parts over a 72 hour period. You can do that when you are an architect and are brave enough to dispense with the need for a builder.

The strange thing is that when we renovated 7 years ago I only had one little picture of Skywood House. All the pictures here made me realise that Skywood House is almost identical in terms of key design elements to the new part of our house. So, whilst we didn't copy it, on some kind of telepathic subconscious level, we in fact did.

A rather grumpy sounding person wrote in a letter to the UK Architects Journal in 1999 that Skywood House is a great house for robots, and speculated on what you would do if you were taking a bath and had to run naked through the house to retrieve your book. I don't think this is an issue at all. It is not as if there is a block of flats peering into the living area. You need lots of storage and you would be set.

What do you think? Impractical or perfect?


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