Capel Manor

The brief was to design a guest pavilion comprising two bedroom suites that would sit adjacent to an Italianate orangery from 1860, on the grounds of Capel Manor House, an iconic modernist pavilion designed by Michael Manser in the late 1960s.

Both the main house and the new pavilion are spectacularly sited upon the raised, arcaded podium of a ruined mansion that was the once the home of Jane Austen's fore-bears, on a leafy estate in the Kentish Weald.

Approaching via a secluded woodland passageway, the simple rear façade of the pavilion is first glimpsed, embodying the Zen principle of "Hide and Reveal".

The building then offers an invitation: a passageway through its centre, which is open to sky, presenting a dramatic event on a walk through the garden. This passageway is formed by two spine walls cast in Beton Brut concrete. These massive walls contrast with the lighter zinc clad roof, and glass elements, while the wood grain of the timber shuttering echoes the woodland context.

Each suite is entered through a pivoting walnut door adjacent to the central walkway. Inside they are subdivided by partitions into a dressing area and bathroom, featuring hand-carved white Jaipur marble baths and basins. Beyond this, the final drama of the bedroom area and terrace is revealed: glass to glass walls, with lightweight frames, bring the garden into the room and present the guests with views of the valley beyond. Beneath the "floating" lightweight roof structure, the green hues of lawn and garden are reflected on the white canopy soffit.

The design was much inspired by the Architect's visits to the temples and gardens of Kyoto; in particular the idea of a building as a frame through which we contemplate nature.