The Harris family bought Lymm Water Tower in 1997, with the idea of turning an unloved, derelict landmark, into their family home, safeguarding the future of the Grade II listed tower, in the process.
The family worked tirelessly through complex negotiations and spiraling budgets to bring the project to fruition. Working with Ellis Williams Architects, the project finally got under way in June 2002, with the family moving in during the Summer of 2004.
The 130-year-old grade II listed landmark is of special architectural and historical interest. It has now been renovated into a unique family home, complete with a hot tub on the roof. The aim throughout has been to blend contemporary design with the building’s traditional features, resulting in simple, powerful detailing.
Designed by EWA, one of Britain’s leading architectural practices, the new wrap-around extension follows the shape of the octagonal tower, making allowances for the mature trees which surround the site. Changes in level delineate the roles of the various spaces, which are arranged in accordance of function, and the changing quality of natural light, as the sun tracks daily from one side of the tower to the other. With the sun rising in the kitchen and setting in the dining room, the Summer Lounge sits in the middle facing due south, making the most of the midday sun. The vast panels of low-energy structural glass in the façade allow these spaces a sensory contact with nature and the seasons.
The house is white – the building’s continuous white curves create and accentuate the spaces, modeling the building and signaling the times of the day and seasons of the year. All surfaces of the building are white, even the floor is a white resin. Colour is added by lighting, which was a major design consideration. There are very few light fittings, as such, with almost all lighting being indirect and concealed.
To achieve this direct expression of the form, in reality took a huge effort. It was not for the lazy or faint hearted, since the more you reduce and eliminate unnecessary clutter, the more extracting your standards have to be. What is left is put into an absolute sharp focus and has to be perfect.
The house is a sublime essay in calm modernism. Happy in its historic context, whilst focusing on sensitive, contemporary architecture, when it would have been easy to resort to reproduction or pastiche. The new, works in synergy with the old, and has the feel and appearance of quality, due to the careful and sensitive manipulation of materials and internal spaces. Lymm Water Tower is, without a doubt, the benchmark of good architecture.
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