Looking Glass Lodge is shaped by a low-impact, material-driven design approach

Looking Glass Lodge by Michael Kendrick Architects is a unique woodland retreat and holiday let, set discreetly within a natural clearing in the High Weald Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty (Hastings, United Kingdom). Shaped by a low-impact, material-driven design approach, the lodge is hidden away from view, blending seamlessly into the protected woodland.

As lifelong residents of the local area, the client’s vision for this holiday let is to enhance the ecological biodiversity of the area, protect wildlife and enable guests to understand and appreciate the fauna, flora, and unique history and nature of the area. The lodge also seeks to support the local economy, by providing a platform for local businesses, such as food and beverage makers, and artists to showcase their products and work.

The subtle yet refined design is modest in scale and makes use of the sloping site, where the lodge appears elevated amongst the trees as the ground levels fall away below. Large picture windows on both the front and rear façade offer the lodge a sense of distinct transparency, enabling visitors to benefit from stunning natural views from all areas of the lodge, and fully immerse themselves in the setting.

Throughout the year, the lodge is flooded with natural light, while self-tinting electrochromic glass grants privacy and limits overheating and the spill of artificial light as dusk falls. Critically, using this glass also ensures that the lodge does not disrupt the site’s bat activity, helping to secure the long-term habitat of this protected species.

Within, a simple yet welcoming layout includes an open-plan living space with a log-burning stove. This uses timber sourced from fallen trees on-site to heat the lodge in winter – significantly lowering the lodge’s running costs and creating a comfortable, Scandi-inspired retreat. The bespoke, carefully-configured kitchen sits at the lodge’s heart, while birch-plywood joinery gently subdivides the layout, to create a more private bedroom. The en-suite sees a free-standing bath make the most of the views out across the trees.

Built by local craftsmen based in Hastings, the lodge features the same species of timber – western red cedar – on the external cladding and internal lining. Left unfinished, the exterior will weather naturally to a silver-grey color that is reminiscent of the local landscape, which will contrast the cozy, warmer tones of the interior.

The site’s existing ecology, habitat, and treeline were key considerations throughout the project, from manufacture to completion. The lodge’s hybrid steel/timber-framed structure bears down on screw-pile foundations for a low-impact approach that avoids damage to existing tree roots, ensures no trees needed to be felled, and retains unobstructed access for wildlife. The project also prioritized off-site construction, in order to circumvent logistical limitations to the site, and safely achieve a minimally disruptive construction process.

The build provided an opportunity for the site’s biodiversity to be enhanced above its current baseline, including removing invasive plants currently on site and adding bat and bird boxes to encourage the natural regeneration of native flora.

Design and info © Michael Kendrick Architects

Images © Tom Bird

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