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Living amongst the land

Words by Ysy Lees

Designed for the future and developed for the earth, we take a look at the sustainable style of ARCO2’s recent construction, Turnstones.

It can be rare to find a home that is both contemporary and sustainable, yet beautiful and sensitive. However, this is exactly what architecture firm ARCO2 specialise in. Inspired by the Cornish landscape, each project is designed with our health, comfort and well-being at its core. Turnstones, a recent construction, is no exception; combining beauty with function, this property in Polzeath embodies modernity and privacy while acting as an ode to its surroundings through ARCO2’s earth-led mantra.

Turnstones is a far cry from the tired 1960s bungalow that previously stood in its place. The original property was built on a low budget and was consequently damp, cold, expensive to run and ultimately not in keeping with the beautiful Cornish landscape that surrounded it. Instead, Turnstones required a clever, high-quality design strategy to solve the existing issues while following the client’s brief which required a wheelchair-friendly, low-energy and sustainable multi-generational family home. It was also important for Turnstones to improve views from neighbouring properties, provide vehicular parking and have an area for dogs. The finished project, however, offers so much more.

Deviating from an archetypical-built house, the property acts more as a landscape feature for those wanting to escape everyday life, inhabit the land and truly live amongst nature. As with all its projects, ARCO2 strived for the best standards, adopting passive house principles with a fabric-first approach: super insulation, airtight construction and triple-glazing. This began with careful consideration of window locations and sun screening to make sure the building didn’t overheat, while cross and stack ventilation meant the refreshing sea breeze from outside cooled the building. Keeping sustainability at its core, ARCO2 used a variety of innovative methods to exploit the view of Pentire Point for neighbouring properties and maximise its space. Using a faceted upper triangular mono-pitched wildflower roof means the property appears as part of the horizon, with a seamless transition from wildflowers, hedgerows and fields up above. This also conceals the lower roof of the property, solar panels and ridges of the houses below to provide neighbours with uninterrupted views of the Cornish coast.

The biodiverse wildflower green roof and sensitive planting scheme further create biodiverse habitats for bees, butterflies and other insects while minimising rainwater run-off by acting like a sponge until it becomes saturated. Upon approach to Turnstones, it appears to float above the ground in single-storey form and only once you reach the end of the driveway is it apparent that there is a lower concealed parking area underneath the green roof. Visions of returning after a day on the beach to wash off leftover sand in the external shower come to mind, returning your surfboard to its secret storage and hanging your wetsuit ready to dry for another day on the waves.

Enter Turnstones through the large frameless glass door, chosen not only for its excellent u-value but to maximise the stunning view from inside the property. With accessibility in mind, the main entrance is designed for wheelchair access and is surrounded by a covered seating area to take advantage of some of the best sunsets in the world. Step inside the open-plan lounge and generous dining area for eight people for a first glimpse of the property’s breathtaking interior. Combining spacious design with luxurious comfort, its wooden shelving features and discreet warm lighting reflect the golden glow of the sun as it sinks below the horizon and streams in through the windows. There is plenty of room to recharge by taking in the panoramic landscape, and for wheelchair users this space is completely accessible. ARCO2 have thoughtfully executed every detail in this considered design, from the optimum seated-height views to the self-cleaning, frameless roof light implemented in the lounge to gaze up at the stars. The palate is gentle and mirrors much of the Cornish coast with its speckled flooring, golden cushions, plush tangerine armchairs, calming ceramics and accents of leafy foliage. As there is no need for supplementary heat, the lounge features a digital flame fire as a focal point, making it the perfect low-energy space to relax in as the day draws to a close.

To the left of the lounge is the kitchen, accessed via two triangular tapered stairs with inset LED strip lighting. This room is modest, understated and the ideal place to cook, host, or work from home; it is complete with a separate pantry for all of your snack and ingredient needs in addition to an accommodating printer and Wi-Fi so you can stay connected even during your escape to the Cornish coast. This room seamlessly emulates the light, airy aura of the lounge through its open-plan sociable design and stone breakfast bar, inviting the opportunity for morning buffets, a recharge for another day on the beach.

Over the stairwell and western red cedar ceiling are twinkling recycled lights, leading you to just one of the four en-suite double bedrooms. This particular bedroom provides views of the rear garden over the top of the terrace, which was designed using 3D and virtual reality to ensure optimal views as you sink beneath the water in the hot tub. There is a cohesive continuation of the clean yet cosy beach-feel in the bedroom and en-suite that ties the entire property together. The room features slatted wooden ceilings similar to that of the lounge and kitchen as well as pops of sunny yellow decor and hidden wallpapered light switches on either side of the bed. The en suite is composed and sleek, yet warm and welcoming. On the opposite side of the hallway are two further bedrooms, one of which is designed specifically for wheelchair users with direct access onto the decking overlooking beautiful Polzeath and the stretching Atlantic Ocean. Each of these rooms feature unique ceiling shapes and volumes emulating the exterior of the property in its contemporary design and elegant aesthetic. ARCO2’s sister company ADD Sustainable Construction built this wonderful dwelling and the marriage of in-house design and construction is reflected both inside and outside of the property.

Even though the design and construction of Turnstones wasn’t without its challenges, mainly the increase of material costs due to the pandemic, ARCO2 Director Ian Armstrong believes the finished property fulfils every part of the brief and more: “The neighbours have been delighted with the end result and were very positive throughout the build, especially given our efforts to improve their views and privacy. Whilst the design is contemporary, it sits into the street scene very well, turning the heads of every passer by… in a positive way! The lucky people who have stayed in this house have left very complimentary comments about the building and its design. We really hope that anyone considering a low-energy sustainable building comes and stays here to experience the health benefits of good quality air, natural light, peacefulness, the renewable energy systems, garden and overall beach lifestyle.”


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