House & Garden June issue – article by George Saumarez Smith

May 10, 2021

In the June issue of House & Garden, the Country House supplement shows an article by ADAM director George Saumarez Smith. He writes for 'Point of View' - a feature where two architect share their thoughts on building country houses and debate the merit of traditional or contemporary style.

By George Saumarez Smith

I feel very lucky to have been designing new, but traditional style houses for over 20 years, and to have seen those houses gradually mellow and improve with age. To think back to what a very modern house would have looked like 20 years ago, I doubt that it would still have the same appeal now. And, ultimately, this is why I believe that traditional houses are worth building. As we face the challenges of a more environmentally conscious world, we should be designing with the long term in mind. You can always change the wallpaper in the downstairs loo, but the bricks and mortar will be there for decades to come.

This is not to say that they should, in any way, be copies of buildings that have gone before. This is the nature of tradition: that it is able to respond and adapt to changing needs, while still using a well-tested and familiar architectural language. Beauty is, of course, in the eye of the beholder, but buildings that are surrounded by open landscape will always look best when they are constructed in natural materials that are local to the site. And so when we consider how country houses should be designed, it is vital that they are built to last. This means that they should be robust in their construction, adaptable to future changes of use and easy on the eye.

Over the centuries, country houses have been at the forefront of innovation. Incorporating the latest in green technology is now a key part of a new country house. This should blend seamlessly with the design, so that it is largely invisible but keeps the energy demands as low as possible.

As we face the challenges of climate change, a debate around architectural style has become a luxury that we cannot afford. Up and down the country, structures built in the past 70 years that are no longer fit for purpose are being torn down and replaced, representing a huge waste of resources and a vast environmental cost. Country houses, perhaps more than any other building type, are built with the long term in mind. They are not just for the current generation but for future ones, too - not only as homes but as centres for responsible stewardship of the countryside.

George Saumarez Smith is a director at ADAM Architecture.

Click here to download a pdf of the article