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Shingle House by Nord Architecture, Dungeness, Kent, UK

AR House 2011 Commended: three simple huts, unified by a black-tarred shingle skin. Photography by Charles Hosea

Described as a living experience rather than a home, the Shingle House is one of six specially commissioned dwellings for Living Architecture, a social enterprise launched by Alain de Botton that is dedicated to the enjoyment of modern architecture (AR August 2010). With designs by Michael and Patty Hopkins, David Kohn, MVRDV, Jarmund/Vigsnæs and Peter Zumthor, the initiative offers holiday homes for rent in some of the most stunning British locations, such as this house at Dungeness, one of the world’s largest expanses of shingle.

The Shingle House is a dwelling of four bedrooms contained within three hut-like forms. A fourth hut, an existing smoke house, is retained as an antecedent of the formal language, clad in a skin of black-tarred shingle commonplace in this part of Kent.

The daily rituals of bathing and eating occupy the two more slender single-storey huts, whereas the large two-storey figure contains three bedrooms and a living room on the ground floor and a master bedroom and gallery in the loft.

Externally, the existing smoke house brings subtle definition to the easterly entrance and a protective westerly courtyard provides a much needed external room, sheltered behind a black shingle screen, set within an otherwise boundless landscape. Internally, spaces are unified in contrasting whitewashed timber-lined walls punctuated by picture windows framing views of trains, lighthouses, abandoned boats and, most curious of all, Dungeness nuclear power station - which must surely spark conversations between this home’s transient guests.

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