A Restorative Rural Retreat for Sartfell

08/07/2018 - Ongoing

A Restorative Rural Retreat for Sartfell - Isle Of Man

This project is part of a growing body of commissions which explore the relationship between landscape and self-sustaining architecture.

The new masterplan, set within the Isle of Man UNESCO World Biosphere, will serve as an important educational platform for local communities and tourists.

The Client, a couple whose background combines biological science, medicine, and education, and who also share a passion for birdwatching, have 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 whilst 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 protectively around an in-situ cast concrete core. The majority of the stones were harvested from the site when excavating the lower ground floor, digging the lake and collected from collapsed existing walls on site.

Over a period of time, the walls will subtly become part of the landscape, with minimal impact for 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, to the delight of the pair of ornithological enthusiasts.

The entire sites 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 prior to construction with the introduction of a weather station capturing data to achieve the optimum levels for the retreat’s environmental performance.

The original Manx cottage, a local landmark named ‘Cloud 9,’ next to the new construction, was taken back to its original form, with a view to it being rented to fellow enthusiasts of wildlife.

The long-term vision is to rewild the site with native woodland, meadowland and acid bogs which are home to rare orchid species. The Client is now seeking donors to support the construction of a Visitors’ Centre on site. Also designed by Foster Lomas, the latest scheme, which includes an Artists’ Studio, was granted planning permission and is due to go on site in 2019


July 2019 – Winner of a RIBA National award.

May 2019 – Winner of the RIBA North West Regional award.

May 2019 – Winner of the RIBA North West Sustainability award.

February 2019 – Winner of the Architect’s Journal Specification award in the Stairs and Lifts category.

October 2018 – Nominated for an Architect’s Journal Award in the House of The Year category.


In Collaboration with:
XCO2 – Energy Consultants

Conisbee – Structural Engineer

West Country Blacksmiths – Metalwork

John Hesp – Metalwork

Photos Copyright Edmund Sumner

Architecture and Landscape

Status: ongoing

Client: private


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