RODMELL, EAST SUSSEX
Project: Works to the house and winery
Clients: Breaky Bottom Vineyard
Responsibilities on project: Architect
House refurbishment and extension completion: 2002
Winery refurbishment and alterations: 2012
The vineyards of Breaky Bottom were planted in the mid-1970’s when modern UK wine growing was in its infancy. The vineyard nestles within a remote natural bowl on the fast draining chalk soils of the South Downs and at the end of a long farm track. In the early 2000’s the owners approached BBM to design improvement and an extension to the house, a new studio space, tasting room and a number of other changes including flood defences as part of a vineyard master plan. BBM were then brought back to Breaky Bottom about ten years later to plan refurbishments to the two key agricultural buildings of the winery where much needed fabric repairs could be pursued with funding assistance from Natural England.
Wine of course draws its character from the soil and the climate, as much as from the way in which the wine maker translates the grape into the final product. In France this linking of wine and food production to the special qualities of the land and its climate is called the ‘terroir’. There are many parallels with this and the design ethos of BBM where the studio searches for integrity and meaning in architectural expression by exploiting the material hinterland of the project’s site and context. In this manner it draws from the spirit of vernacular traditions whilst avoiding faux reproduction.
The house serves as the family home for the owners but come harvest time it also needs to host a large group of friends and volunteers who partake in picking the vines. The new extension by BBM created a space which was capable of that transition. It is a simple oak framed single storey mono-pitched volume that wraps one and half sides of the original flint clad building. The horizontal lines of the timber shiplap boards are set against the vertical rhythms of the glazing. A simple traditionally detailed lead roof completes the composition which overall sits well within the natural setting of the bowl and the vernacular detailing of the original flint and brick clad house.
The winery itself occupies a fine old flint and brick-built barn. It is supported by the ancillary spaces of the adjoining single storey barn (known as the ‘Hovel’). In 2009 BBM started work on drawings and specifications for the refurbishment of these two buildings – essentially to renew the slate roof covering and to repair and replace some of the deteriorated roof timbers on the barn and virtually transforming a derelict agricultural; shed into an active component of the winery. The refurbished Hovel includes the bottling and labelling room, a kitchen space which doubles as a tasting room, a storeroom and a studio space. The buildings were lightly insulated and re-glazed within the tight restrictions imposed by Natural England.
Originally there was to be a new build studio building to the north west of the house and winery. BBM came up with an intriguing volume partially built into the landform of the south facing scarp slope. The idea was to merge landscape and building with the ‘meadow roof’ continuing the landform over the built form as a simple lifted plane. The building was to be clad in timber to link back to the domestic extension’s dining space. The elevations adopted horizontal short planks and vertical cover battens to create a pleasing articulation with the glazing. The new-build studio space was not pursued and instead the original earmarked space for a tasting room within the Hovel has taken this role.