acme: hunsett mill
acme: hunsett mill acme: hunsett mill
dec 10, 2010

acme: hunsett mill

facade of extension all images courtesy acme photographer: cristobal palma

the hunsett mills renovation project, by london-based architecture firm acme, was guided by a focus on environmentally friendly practices and the desire to create a building that would fit naturally into the landscape, in terms of both aesthetics and function.

unique design challenges were presented by the property’s location, in the protected wetlands of the norfolk broads. historically adapted for industrial use, the landscape of the broads has benefited from contemporary trends that emphasis conservation and a return to nature.

‘hunsett mill’ by acme in norfolk broads national park, united kingdom

exterior view

originally the home of the keeper of the hunsett water pumping mill, the building underwent a series of extensions over the course of the 20th century. added room-by-room and all at different times, the changes not only gave the house a disjointed appearance but also caused the land to sink, increasing the frequency of flooding from nearby marshes.

the acme renovation demolished the old additions and returned the building to its original architecture. in their place, a single large extension was added behind the house, more seamlessly integrating into the landscape.

charred timber cladding

the extension was conceived as a shadow of the existing house, and indeed from certain vantage points, it is barely visible behind the original property, despite its size. its charred timber facade blends into its setting, without resorting to mimicry of traditional building styles; and the distinctly modern architecture is tempered by the use of traditional pitched roofs.

garden space

throughout the house, external and internal windows and optimal use of space lend a feeling of capaciousness to the rooms. the open ground floor is given a sense of structure by a fireplace, and its separate living spaces are unobtrusively demarcated by changes in floor level.

the first storey intersperses its seven rooms with hallways and pockets of space that look out over the first floor, and are thereby open to the full two-storey height of the building.

surrounding landscape

sustainability was a major consideration in every step of the design process. the building is oriented and structured to provide maximum solar exposure, and thereby benefit in colder weather from free passive solar heating. by leaving the internal surfaces of the exterior timber exposed, the heat captured by daytime sun exposure is steadily released into the house in the cooler evenings. additional heat can be provided by a wood-burning stove. natural ventilation for warmer months is encouraged by the stack effects produced by several double-storey spaces. electricity, from a renewable energy company, is the only off-site resource connected to the property.

the timber walls and roofs were selected for their insulating and thermal regulating properties, and were harvested from sustainable forests. the technique of superficial charring that lends a traditional and interesting appearance to the structure is not merely aesthetic but also functional, weatherproofing and preserving the timber without the use of chemicals. wood for the hunsett mill was sourced from japan, where the use of charred timber (‘yakisugi’) for building purposes is a common practice and where its production is more sustainable than industry practices in the UK. construction innovations reduced the amount of heavy machinery required on site and minimized the extent to which earth was broken.

view of the house from river ant

the architects did not overlook the broader needs of the unique landscape. construction of a new embankment directly behind the buildings protects against flooding more reliably and efficiently than previous defenses downstream, and returns 25 hectares of nearby forest and grassland to its pre-industrial marshland condition. the garden is composed of indigenous plants to minimize its ecological footprint.

kitchen space

dining space

center fireplace

interior view

(left) stairway down to the ground level (right) bedroom

second level hallway

(left) below the staircase (right) faceted ceiling

(left) bathroom (right) ceiling forms

prior to construction


solid timber structure

timber cladding

in context

site plan

ground floor

first floor

roof plan

section showing the floor defense

project info: architect: ACME (friedrich ludewig, stefano dal piva) with karoline markus/ nerea calvillo/ chris yoo contractor: willow builders / eurban (timber structure) / nuttall (floor defense) structural engineer: adams kara taylor (gerry o’brien, gary lunch) services engineer: hoare lea (phil grew) landscape: ACME (julia cano, kelvin chu, stefano dal piva, deena fakhro, michael haller, friedrich ludewig) photographer: cristobal pama (set 1), friedrich ludewig (set 2)

functions: private residential total GFA: 213 m2 residential, 4500 m2 garden

  • Like in fairy tale. Like it very much 🙂 Its “Beautiful Panama, land of my dreams” by Janosch, in real life 😉

    curious boy says:
  • wondering how many dead birds they’ll have to collect day by day

    - says:
  • why the fkc those it always come down to a dead bird when someone sees a a large glass plane… oh the stupidy…. seriusly…

    rok says:
  • Like a cheap pair of mirrored sunglasses. There’s no soul behind them.

    JAH says:
  • What a beautiful Architecture!

    Giacomo Cornelio says:
  • JAH: so you believe expensive, mirrored sunglasses have the “soul behind them” that cheaper eyewear doesn’t? Your analogy is sophomoric. This is a beautiful project featuring windows that allow unimpeded views of the outdoors from within.

    CWEnder says:
  • Much of the project is very lovely. I love the way the old and new parts communicate with each other and the river. I also like the way the sequence of demolished additions is still present in the new forms.The upper level is puzzling. It seems unworthy of all the effort put into project. Its peculiar spaces, that are barely functional, look like they’d create a sense of unease with floating masses, dead angles, encroaching pendants, etc. As savvy as the designers were in shaping the lower level I wonder if the upper level was passed-off to an inexperienced assistant to solve? Maybe they just got tired or ran out of time before they got that area resolved?

    Lisa says:

have something to add? share your thoughts in our comments section below.
all comments are reviewed for the purposes of moderation before publishing.

comments policy
designboom's comment policy guidelines
generally speaking, if we publish something, it's because we're genuinely interested in the subject. we hope you'll share this interest and if you know even more about it, please share! our goal in the discussion threads is to have good conversation and we prefer constructive opinions. we and our readers have fun with entertaining ones. designboom welcomes alerts about typos, incorrect names, and the like.
the correction is at the discretion of the post editor and may not happen immediately.

what if you disagree with what we or another commenter has to say?
let's hear it! but please understand that offensive, inappropriate, or just plain annoying comments may be deleted or shortened.

- please do not make racist, sexist, anti-semitic, homophobic or otherwise offensive comments.
- please don't personally insult the writers or your fellow commenters.
- please avoid using offensive words, replacing a few letters with asterisks is not a valid workaround.
- please don't include your website or e-mail address in your comments for the purpose of self-promotion.
- please respect jury verdicts and do not discuss offensively on the competition results
(there is only one fist prize, and designboom usually asks renown professionals to help us to promote talent.
in addition to the awarded designs, we do feel that almost all deserve our attention, that is why we publish
the best 100-200 entries too.)

a link is allowed in comments as long as they add value in the form of information, images, humor, etc. (links to the front page of your personal blog or website are not okay). unwelcome links (to commercial products or services of others, offensive material etc. ) will be redacted. and, ... yes, spam gets banned. no, we do not post fake comments.

(5 articles)


a diverse digital database that acts as a valuable guide in gaining insight and information about a product directly from the manufacturer, and serves as a rich reference point in developing a project or scheme.

architecture news

keep up with our daily and weekly stories
489,486 subscribers
- see sample
- see sample