Flint House

Flint House, Design and Construction of Bespoke Water Features.

Flint House, sat within the landscape at the heart of the Waddesdon Estate, is the exciting brainchild of Lord Rothschild and his architect, Charlotte Skene Catling. It is designed to reflect the geology of the ground upon which it is built, rising out of the soil in two magnificent wedges of flint as if thrown up by a natural titanic convulsion of the earth.

As if to emphasise this seemingly natural evolution of the property, the main house boasts a grotto on the ground floor, through which a black but crystal-clear stream shimmers on its way out of the house and then down through the garden to a small lake on the edge of the property. The visual effect of the stream within the house is accentuated by a mirror ceiling to the grotto, which is also lined with the same flint stones which clad the exterior of the property.

Kingcombe’s task was to design and construct the stream to compliment the style and character of the property. The brief was to ensure absolute clarity of water within the grotto, but to harmonise the external watercourse with the landscape environment as it flows through the gardens. In keeping with the whole ethos of the property, this had to be achieved in a wholly sustainable manner. After examining the construction drawings and discussing the vision and intent with the team we felt that major changes to the design were required to ensure clean, algae free water in the grotto whilst maintaining the illusion of a running natural stream. After previous bad experiences the estate were adamant that the water features would remain clean to the point of saying they would discard the grotto if the water quality was not managed.

Using our experience based on many years of “hands-on “ water system maintenance and construction work, and our knowledge of both chemical and biological water treatment, coupled with experience of natural swimming pools providing nutrient management in the water we were able to consider the most appropriate solution.

We achieved this by creating a trompe d’oeil at the point that the stream exits the building. Water from the lake is recirculated up to the waterfall where the stream emerges from the building, ensuring that the external water is filtered simply by the natural plants growing in the lake. The internal stream is more carefully managed, employing sophisticated filtration equipment housed within an underground plant chamber hidden within a small copse planted in the neighbouring field. Sand filters, UV and bespoke phosphate reduction devices all combine to ensure the clarity of chemical-free water demanded for the feature within the building itself.

Liaising closely with Kingerlee, the main contractors, Kingcombe Aquacare managed to create the water feature whilst co-operating with all the other specialist disciplines on the site.

The property has since been awarded the highly coveted “House of the Year Award 2015” by the Royal Institute of British Architects, and featured heavily on Channel 4’s Grand Designs programme.

To quote just one of many articles on the property:

“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.

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.”

 Or, to quote Kevin McCloud, of Grand Designs, “the stream is just simply magical”.

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