The timber-framed extension is given its own autonomous expression, liberated from the architectural language of the old cottage. ‘Rainscreen cladding, with its ventilated cavity, works really well with timber construction,’ says Sheridan. ‘We prefer dry construction to wet trades. Timber is a very forgiving material. You have more freedom over window openings, and it allows ambiguity in terms of scale.’
Vertical joints in the fibre-cement cladding are covered with dual wooden slats, separated by spacers to support climbing plants and cast shadows on the facade. ‘It’s just a layer,’ says Sheridan, ‘not a planted screen. The slats provide a vertical rhythm, like the trees behind. They read very differently, depending on the light. On a grey, misty day, the form visually disintegrates.’ Conversely, the subtle colours of the cladding panels appear heightened in the subdued light provided by overcast conditions.
Colour is at the core of the project. The client had formerly lived in Berlin, where LiD is also based and where colour is widely celebrated. The exterior of the cottage was previously purple and each room boldly coloured. Discussions between architect and client even touched upon dazzle painting, the naval camouflage technique that attracted interest from avant-garde artists in the 1920s and 1930s.
‘We worked to sublimate her strong interest in colour to what we could work with in the landscape,’ says Sheridan. ‘If we could do that, the rest of the house could go back to white. In the end the exterior became grey to let the Butterfly House do its own thing. Very early on, we digitized the colours of a range of physical cladding samples from Tegral and then prepared different rhythmic scenarios, based on the landscape, with which to wrap the extension. The selected tones relate to the changing colours of the surrounding trees, hedgerows, fields, mountains and sky.’
Finally, this knowing-yet-naif piece of architecture displays a rare affinity with the wood-butcher’s architecture of the hippy counterculture, a form of ‘architecture without architects’ that also influenced Frank O Gehry when he came to extend his seminal house in Santa Monica. There, infamously, the neighbours were shocked; here they must be charmed.