Flint House features rugged stone walls that gradate from smoky grey to chalky white

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Lumps of flint give a textured facade to this English countryside residence, completed by London firm Skene Catling de la Peña for one of the world's richest families (+ slideshow).

Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña

Located in the grounds of Waddesdon Manor in Buckinghamshire, Flint House is a house and annex commissioned by Jacob Rothschild, lord of the estate and head of the historic banking family. His brief was to provide accommodation for a visiting art curator.

Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña

The site is located over the chalk fissure that extends down from Norfolk to the cliffs of Dover, which prompted Skene Catling de la Peña to develop a design around the use of flint – a sedimentary rock that often appears as nodules in chalk.

It is a material rarely used in contemporary architecture, with the few exceptions including a London house with a flint wall.

Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña

"Flint is an ancient material related to jasper, obsidian and onyx; a hard, cryptocrystalline form of quartz found in one geological seam in the UK, and in abundance on the surface of the ploughed fields surrounding the site," said the architects.

Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña

The material was used to clad the walls of both buildings. But rather than using pieces of flint at random, they were sorted into layers of tone, with darker strata at the bottom. Towards the top, they become chalky white to match the pale terrazzo roofs.

Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña

"The lowest courses of flint are blackest and rough hewn with large gallets in black mortar joints," said the team.



"The walls and terrazzo roofs fade in six coloured strata as the flint progresses up the building, from galleted black through finely knapped greys, and finally into courses of long, narrow blocks of white chalk, where the building appears to dissolve into the sky."

Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña

The two buildings are both triangular in profile, and they angle away from one another – like two hills with a valley in between.

The terrazzo tiles covering the rooftops create steps leading up to viewing platforms, offering views out over the area's expansive meadows. There are also various openings, which form sunken rooftop gardens.

Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña

"The Flint House and annex form two stepped, linear monoliths that appear pulled from the landscape as geological extrusions of infinite age, with the rough texture and rawness of their surroundings," explained the architects.

Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña

"The buildings are both viewing platforms and condensing lenses for the surrounding panorama," they added.

Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña

The rock analogy also continues inside the main house – a grotto-like space features walls of flint nodules that have been left uncut to reveal their knobbly forms.

Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña

This space also houses a pool of water that runs right through the building. A ceiling of black glass reflects the water, intended to create the illusion of infinite space.

Other rooms in this 465-square-metre building include a dining room, a kitchen, a library and study, and three bedrooms, all distributed across two storeys. The 115-square-metre annex contains a two-level studio apartment.

Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña

"The programme moves from the utilitarian and open spaces at the centre of the site to more contemplative, private rooms buried in the existing trees at the far ends of each building," added the designers.

"The internal 'river' carves a mysterious, internal cave through the structure that separates the public spaces from the more introspective, with views across water, through fire and expanded in reflections."

Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña

Waddesdon Manor was first built in the 19th century as a weekend home for the Rothschild family. Today the estate is administered by a charitable trust overseen by Jacob Rothschild, whose penchant for contemporary art and architecture has led to works by David Hockney, Richard Long and Sarah Lucas being installed in the building and grounds.

In 2011, Rothschild also added an archive building to the site, designed by London studio Stephen Marshall Architects.

Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña

In a similar vein, the Flint House has been furnished with a selection of contemporary, classic and bespoke pieces. Examples include a solid chalk dining table and a pair of marbled urns.

Flint House was one the 37 winners of the RIBA's 2015 awards, and is also shortlisted for best house in the World Architecture Festival awards.

Photography is by James Morris.


Project credits:

Client: Lord Rothschild
Architects: Skene Catling de la Peña
Project team: Charlotte Skene Catling, Jaime de la Peña, Theodora Bowering, Amaia Orrico, Tomoaki Todome, Samuel Chisholm, Tom Greenall, Jordan Hodgson, Daniel Peacock
Collaborators & Consultants: Marc Frohn
Client advisor: Colin Amery
Landscape and garden designers: Mary Keen, Pip Morrison
Interior designer: David Mlinaric
Structural engineers: eHRW Engineers Haskins Robinson Waters, Adam Redgrove, Stephen Haskins
Mechanical and electrical engineers: Max Fordham – Kai Salman-Lord
Civil engineers: Infrastructure Design Studio – Martin Jones
Quantity surveyors: Selway Joyce Partnership – Nick Tarrier, Ed Smith, Hui Meng
Flint consultant: The Flint Man – David Smith
Lighting consultants: Spellman Knowlton
Lighting design: Claire Spellman, Christopher Knowlton
Ecology consultant: Bernwood
Environmental conservation services: Chris Damant

Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña
Main house floor plans – click for larger image
Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña
Main house sections – click for larger image
Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña
Annex floor plans – click for larger image
Flint House by Skene Catling De La Peña
Annex sections – click for larger image
  • SteveLeo

    The coloured strata looks stunning, although the interiors lack the dramatics of the outside.

  • Guest

    That is some guest spare room. And they got the important part right: the lovely, beautifully detailed living spaces. In that location the rest of it, triangular and striated or not, doesn’t really matter.

  • Sig

    Like the facade, but the shape/form not. It’s not as simple as I think this could be. It’s to distractive and problematic. Also, the interiors are to bland, or even aggressive.

  • Cooking The Books

    Great house and great evidence of need for land reform.

  • Louis

    I thought this was made by Snohetta, since the only thing they design are roofs like this.

  • Frogfisher

    One look at the furniture and you know which part of the world it is. Looks awesome, though I like the clearness of the massing and the spaces.

  • James

    The rich certainly know how to spend their money. I have to admit, I was expecting something rather gaudy, but this house is refreshingly dramatic and tasteful. It’s both contemporary and modest… things not usually associated with the aristocracy.

  • Too bad the landscape photos don’t do it justice.

  • Klara Kormendy

    I wonder if the design was inspired in some way by Casa Malaparte on the Isle of Capri Italy, 1942?

    • Philippe

      I was going to write the same thing.

  • Kay

    The corner and profile views are stunning and the use of flint is commendable. However, the slanting and the psuedo-symmetry destroyed a potentially incredible structure. Shame.

  • Mark Power

    These reminded me of a 200-year-old flint house – “Stone House” – I once rented on the Norfolk broads. I think I would have preferred the one in Buckinghamshire. Stone House was venerable and reputedly had a former occupant buried under the kitchen floor, but it wasn’t very comfortable.