Hunsett Mill

Architect: Acme

Client: Catriona and John Dodsworth, Jon and Joanna Emery

Photographer: Cristobal Palma

Hunsett Mill is a very specific response to a very specific space: an arcadian setting on the Norfolk Broads. The windmill and its out-buildings appear on jigsaws, postcards and chocolate boxes as a famous view from narrow boats. The new building is conceived as a shadow sitting within the site lines of the retained cottage so that the new building is invisible from that specific viewpoint.

The new building is clad in black, charred timber so that it is truly a shadow, with flush glazing that add to the sense of insubstantiality. The overall impact is very arresting - more akin to the response to a piece of art than an example of rural, domestic architecture.

The judges enjoyed the constant inventiveness of Acme’s approach seeking new materials, using intriguing structural forms to create interesting forms, values and visual effects. The building is used as a weekend or holiday home by a number of families; this allows the interiors to continue the inventiveness and drama of the exterior forms without too many domestic constraints.

The roof forms are particularly enjoyable, creating a series of linked gables that are asymmetric but rhythmic. Further changes of angle are added to create a series of interesting spaces, with the first floor walkway to the bedrooms particularly special. The whole is consistently detailed and well crafted with interesting use of off-site construction.

Overall the restoration of the cottage and the new building, which are linked internally, is an exciting and intellectually stimulating response to the strange rural setting. A cultured client has given free reign to the innovation of his chosen architects Acme and engineers Adams Kara Taylor.

Hunsett Mill proves that good architecture can be delivered on a budget and that it can be achieved in the most restrictive of situations – as a planning authority Norfolk is not renowned for risk-taking. The resulting project balances value and quality and is one that many people could aspire to.