Case Study Program inspires single-storey Gloucestershire house by Ström Architects
A slice of Palm Springs and the legendary Case Study Program lies behind an unassuming brick wall in the UK market town of Cheltenham. This new single-storey house by Ström Architects is a pavilion for living that blends Case Study aesthetics with the meticulously organised self-contained universe of the Barcelona Pavilion.
Case Study Program inspires Cheltenham retreat
The inspirations for the project came from the client’s experience of Palm Springs, where they were entranced by the Californian light bouncing around the midcentury modernism of Richard Neutra, Donald Wexler, et al. As studio founder Magnus Ström notes, ‘she fell in love with their simplicity, elegance, functionality, and honesty’.
Ström and his team were entrusted with transferring that energy to a ‘tired 1960s bungalow’, briefed with capturing the modernist spirit without veering into fetishistic retro design. Ström’s portfolio is varied and adventurous, often blessed with spectacular locations and generous sites.
In Cheltenham, the tables were turned. This is a narrow urban plot, facing onto a main road. The architects retained the original red brick wall, with a modest full-height gate providing no clue as to what lies behind. An inner gravel courtyard, with desert-inspired planting and a concrete paver path leads to a second slatted wall, behind which lies a narrow channel of water, and beyond that, the new house.
The house comprises of two overlapping rectangles, one assigned to three bedrooms, the other for living and dining. Where they intersect are the entrance and utility areas. White brick walls sit beneath an oversailing flat roof, with fully glazed front and rear façades for the living room and bedrooms respectively.
The brick is complemented by a polished concrete floor that runs seamlessly throughout the house and garden, with rendered white walls and a stone hearth that is mirrored by the garden bench.
The glazed walls define the view and achieve the classic trick of blending inside and outside space, with meticulous alignments of floor and wall planes, along with carefully conceived shadow gaps and concealed illumination. The living area is mirrored by a minimal courtyard, planted with sculptural pine trees, while at the rear a slender reflecting pool outside the bedroom windows evokes the spirit of Mies van der Rohe.
The linear plan makes the most of the long, thin site, with maximum sight lines throughout, courtesy of the large expanses of glass. The high walls act as a continuation of the living space, transporting the owner into a secluded modernist world of their own.