Building Against the Grain in Wimbledon

Thursday, August 28, 2014

Pamela had lived in the same Wimbledon bungalow for 40 years. At 75, she wanted more: a family home built to the highest standards that she could cherish for years, if not generations to come. But that wasn’t all.

In a highly controlled conservation area where even having an extension approved can be an uphill battle, Pamela wanted a brand new 4000 square foot home with an unapologetically cutting edge modern design. Not only did she want to deviate from the typical, she wanted to leave a truly unique mark on the landscape.

Short of knocking down a listed building, there is no plan that faces more scrutiny than a new build in a conservation area. The only chance Pamela had to have her dream home approved was hiring a residential architect that could not only produce something exceptional but fight for its place in the world.

After browsing our prior successes, I’m honoured to say she chose us for the task. We saw potential in Pamela’s brief for a ground breaking design and were thrilled to take on the challenge.

Introducing modern styles to a conservation area is always a contentious issue, and we’ve fulfilled briefs that support both sides. In this case, it was our firm belief that Pamela’s plan represented the sort of architectural ambition that doesn’t detriment the character of the area, it enhances it.

I would rather have stand out modern design adding touches of fresh character to an otherwise established local style than countless pale imitations. The Georgian, Victorian and Edwardian house builders did great work but now it’s our turn to build for our era.

Of course, there was more to be chewed over than matters of taste. Trees of moderate and high quality filled the site, meaning we had to prove we would exact extreme caution during the substantial excavation works.

We knew it would be a dramatic planning process going in. It was a true love or hate situation, with opinion divided amongst locals and councillors alike. The application was carried all the way to a planning committee, where after a heated debate and a split vote we finally emerged with approval.

Pamela’s passion paid off. After the struggle for approval, the positive feedback we’ve received has been encouraging and welcome.

“Thank goodness for clear modern architecture,” said the Merton Design Review Panel, while the Planning Officer’s Report described the build as “an exemplar piece of design and an enhancement to the street scene.”

Having the planning application approved immediately boosted the value of the site by 35%. When the build is complete, Pamela – along with her daughter, son in law and their three kids – will have a cutting edge, Code 5 sustainable home equipped with a cinema room, gym and library, along with an open plan kitchen, dining and living room.

Most of all, no one walking down the road will be able to miss her stunning home. After 40 years of the same, she’ll make a dramatic change that could set a precedent for more ambitious builds.

By John Dyer Grimes

While this was a planning process to remember, most go by without a hitch. We post all successful planning applications on our site, which you can follow here.