Location: Dungeness, United Kingdom
Architect: Northern Office for Research and Design, Living Architecture
Set in the middle of the sprawling, rugged, and serene landscape of Dungeness, Britain’s only desert, The Shingle House is a dramatic work of modern architecture. Near Romney Marsh, the shingle beach of Dungeness is classified as a nature reserve, vast and filled with native flora and birdlife. The area surrounding The Shingle House is mostly empty, but for a smattering of fisherman’s huts that are mostly owned by artists. Most notably, the late filmmaker Derek Jarman owned one of these huts. Two lighthouses, the terminus of the Romney, Hythe and Dymchurch miniature railway, and a nuclear power plant are the only other structures within view on the placid seaside backdrop.
Commissioned by Living Architecture, a not-for-profit organization dedicated to the promotion and public enjoyment of modern architecture, the up-and-coming Scottish practice NORD (Northern Office for Research and Design) was hired to design and build this stunning, unique getaway spot. Established in 2002 by Robin Lee and Allen Pert, NORD was included in the Architect’s Journal “40 Under 40” exhibition at the Victoria and Albert Museum in 2005. Responding to the drama of the landscape, NORD designed a house meant to reflect the year-round experience of Dungeness while playing on seasonal changes in the surrounding countryside.
The exterior of The Shingle House is covered in tarred black shingles and boards, paying homage to the surrounding fisherman’s huts, but inside is a stark white palette of concrete and timber. With strategically placed and subtly framed windows throughout, the vibrancy of the Dungeness landscape resembles fine art lining the otherwise bare walls. Full panoramic views of the lovely and rugged shingle scenery are available throughout the space, and these views are truly the only decoration needed. Drawing the elements of Dungeness inside, the floors are covered with Purpleheart timber, inspired by the mass summer blooming of violet blue Viper’s Bugloss. Large, sturdy shutters allow visitors to open the house and experience the elements during warm months or close it up when the weather turns cold.
The Shingle House sleeps up to eight people, with three double bedrooms on the ground floor and one on the floor above. The open and bright living room features a concrete fireplace perfect for keeping warm on chilly nights. The house also features a private bathhouse just beyond the kitchen and dining areas, where visitors can relax in a sunken bath of black polished concrete with full view of the beautiful and weathered Dungeness shore. Large glass walls in the kitchen and dining areas open to a hidden and sheltered courtyard.
Living Architecture is dedicated to providing the opportunity for people to experience living in masterfully designed feats of modern architecture. The Shingle House is one of many buildings they’ve commissioned throughout Britain, and is available for vacation rental year-round.