Arthur Road


The brief was to design a summerhouse at the end of a long, narrow and steeply sloping garden in Wimbledon.

The property was built in 2002 by the architect Terry Pawson for his own occupation and latterly it was sold to the current occupant.

The orientation of the house has the garden terrace at the rear in shade by late afternoon. Therefore, a summerhouse was commissioned to be built at the bottom of the garden, where it would benefit from sunlight until late on summer evenings. The initial plan was to continue the theme of the house with weathered oak but this idea was quickly set aside as the building would have to cut into the steeply sloping ground as timber and wet earth do not mix well. It was then decided to construct it from masonry. No planning permission was required as the proposal came within permitted development rules.

The logistics of delivering this small project were difficult to say the least. The house fills the whole width of the site and access from the rear was not possible, being enclosed by a small private housing estate. However, the neighbouring house was undertaking a substantial landscaping and the owner very generously offered access for the purpose of the erecting the summerhouse. With this limited window of opportunity work started in January 2014. Unfortunately, that January proved to be one of the wettest on record so the ground works which involved serious excavation and removal of spoil looked more like the Battle of the Somme!

Additionally a land drain was found to be channelling water directly into the site.

First a concrete retaining wall and raft was constructed with a void under to allow any build up of ground water to collect and seep away. The walls were built from Hand made bricks, which were also the internal finish. In order to exclude damp, those below ground were built as a single skin and coated with a robust waterproof membrane, then the inner skin built after which has proved entirely effective. The flat roof was constructed using green oak beams, which are left exposed. The roof is topped with sedum planting, which slows water run off and mitigates over heating in summer. The floor is insulated and has electric under floor heating to allow use on cooler days. A sophisticated lighting scheme using LED strip lights hidden behind oak skirting boards and wire suspended spots between the roof beams was installed.

With all the odds stacked against it, this project has proved a great success and the owner is very pleased with the finished building. Sometimes the smallest projects can prove to be the most challenging.

Structural engineer:
Ground works and masonry: Joseph McDaid Ground Works Ltd
Roof and fit out: T.O.M. Services Ltd