Bentley Manor is a new country house, bound by themes of sensitivity, sustainability and context, on the site of a manor house demolished in the 1950s. This is a home set within a series of stepped gardens and terraces where the hedges and walls of the gardens mark the boundary between the new house and the surrounding woodland.
The house has a sprawling footprint with no clear beginning or end. The arrangement of open rooms and enclosed gardens blurs the distinction between indoor and outdoor spaces. Shelter is provided in the gardens in the undercroft of projecting barn or cabin-like volumes straddling over garden walls.
Within the site, the natural woodland setting is restructured into an entirely new series of ‘playful’ landscaped spaces of varying degrees of formality and privacy. The threshold of each garden is defined by surrounding walls of ashlar, marble, slate or concrete, which allow the land to rise and fall in a series of stepped and sloping gardens accessible from the ground and first floor of the house. Some of the garden walls are thin, while others are thick and carved out creating habitable rooms. The gardens have different characters and are defined by a rose garden, courtyard , topiary maze, pools, water gardens and planted roof terraces.- all of which are evocative of a traditional English garden.
Shelter within these landscape bands and indoor rooms is provided by 3 main volumes, straddling over and take support from the garden walls below. These are modern volumes, borrowing the language of architectural barns and the pitched roofscapes and chimney stacks of traditional country houses. These are piano nobile volumes housing the formal public rooms and bedrooms of the house and offer upper level views of the surrounding gardens and vistas. Beyond the main body of the house, the gardens and paths extend to link the belvedere to the South and timber boarded garage block and tennis pavilion to the North. The cherry-lined avenue and orchard stretches to the North and defines the edge of the paddock beyond which lies the Stable with direct access to its service yard from the sites secondary service drive. The various elements of the site are linked by a new network of garden paths stretching along the entire perimeter of the site and contained within low meadow planting.
A selection of natural local materials of the highest quality has been chosen to reinforce the varying character of the garden walls, in between gardens and paved terraces and the straddling volumes above. It is intended that these principles reinforce the synergy between the built volumes and their intrinsic landscape context. The natural materials will weather and age to ensure the integration of these with the landscape quality of the site.
When viewed from the surrounding open countryside, the house is designed to have minimal impact on the existing densely wooded character of the site, preserving the visual contribution that the site today offers to the open countryside & Green Belt. This new country house is designed to far exceed current environmental requirements with a very strong commitment to sustainable construction and renewable energy sources, incorporating the latest Green technologies. It is proposed to harness wind, solar and geothermal energy, as well as rainwater harvesting and grey water systems. The construction of a this house will provide a net improvement for the environment, to offer more than if no construction took place as a reflection of the environmental-awareness and concerns debated in our society today.
Bentley Manor, not only reflects our contemporary way of living, but takes an evolutionary step that carries with it the lessons and inspirations of both the Classical and Modern movements alike. Ultimately, this new country house will reflect a vibrant response to a revitalised passion for the countryside, rural life and nature.Location: Bromsgrove, UK
Architect: De Matos Ryan
WAF Entry: 2011