Foster Lomas

The client created a brief with a long-term strategy for the restoration, conservation and management of the 7.5 acres of nature reserve on Sartfell Mountain.

Foster Lomas’ response to the site goes back to their research and experience of drystone construction while working in the Abruzzo region of Italy. Building on this vernacular technology, they have reinterpreted the local Manx stone structures to create an original building in its unique setting. 

Drystone walls, with a three-quarter mortar bed to allow local ecology to inhabit voids within, are wrapped around an in-situ cast concrete core. Over time, the walls will subtly become part of the landscape, with minimal impact on the land. Its organic rooftop, designed to carefully emulate the flora of the immediate area and complement the drystone walling, will further blend the dwelling with its environment.

The signature feature of the house is a ribbon window that wraps around the house, framing the sweeping views of the Mountains of Mourne, the Irish Sea and the Mull of Galloway in Scotland.

All the spaces are ordered around a staircase core forming a triangular plan that elegantly accommodates the library. The staircase is topped with a clerestory that frames the study and its exposed concrete interior.

The entire site's energy use is carbon neutral, equipped with ground source heating to harness energy from a newly formed lake, a natural processing sewerage system and a wind turbine. Weather conditions were monitored before construction with the introduction of a weather station capturing data to achieve the optimum levels for the retreat’s environmental performance.