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New Mission Hall by Adam Richards Architects, Sussex, UK

[COMMENDATION AR HOUSE 2011] New Mission Hall presents a familiar arrangement that engages with its village context. Photography by Tim Brotherton & Katie Lock

For a moment, the selection of this project divided the jury as there was a sense that the house lacked the clarity and coherence of other projects, and relied too heavily on an over-theorised written description. In the end, however, when understood as part of an English village typology, consensus was finally reached about its merits. Compact, specific and retaining the memory of the former chapel that occupied the site for many years, the quality of its construction and the character of its domestic interiors were thought to be exceptional.

Splitting the plan into two offset halves, the eastern village-facing half maintains the familiar apsidal form of the old chapel and even re-hangs its roof tiles in elevation. By contrast, the western half sits like a pavilion in the landscape, and is more contemporary in its expression, as seen in the tall columns that frame distant views.

With sleeping accommodation on the ground floor and living spaces above, the architect identifies an ‘axis of transformation’, which begins in the brick-bordered lavender beds of the garden and extends through the house as a vaulted hall, before rising up to form the chimney and fireplace that sit above the front door. A metal stair shares this axis, connecting the garden and the first floor of the building. The stair signals the distinction between what the architect calls ‘the introverted, chthonic ground floor, dark with oak and black stone, [that] contrasts with the light, abstraction and vistas of the living space above’.

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