Villa Biophilia, Paragraph 79

The phenomenon of Biophilia helps explain why crackling fires and crashing waves captivate us; why a garden view can enhance our creativity; why shadows and heights instil fascination and fear; and why animal companionship and strolling through a park have restorative, healing effects. Biophilic design can reduce stress, enhance creativity and clarity of thought, improve our well-being and expedite healing; as the world population continues to urbanize these qualities are ever more important. Through the adoption of several Biophilic principles, this Paragraph 79 house offers the owner both a complete refuge from and total immersion in the landscape and relates intimately to its site and wider setting.

Villa Biophilia is specifically designed to bring nature right into the heart of this unique home to enhance the emotional wellbeing of its owners, a busy tech entrepreneur and his young family.

Project & Environmental Data

Project Info

  • Location: Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes
  • Cost: £4,000,000
  • Designation: Out of Designated Settlement, Paragraph 79
  • Collaborators: SEED Landscape & Design
  • Image Credit: nu.ma

Environmental Data

  • Energy Efficiency
    1 2 3 4 5
  • Insulation
    1 2 3 4 5 6
  • Thermal Mass
    1 2 3
  • Airtightness
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7
  • Solar PV
    1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8
  • Embodied Carbon
    1 2 3
  • Heating/Hot Water
    Electric Gas Ground Source Air Source
  • Solar Thermal
    Yes No
  • Rain Water Harvest
    Yes No
  • Ventilation
    MVHR Natural
  • Energy Storage
    Yes No
Paragraph 79 house on a lake in Milton Keynes

The design of this Paragraph 79 home celebrates the lake above which it sits. The journey from the site entrance through the sloping site has been choreographed to enhance the dramatic effect: From the entrance located high above the house, you momentarily glimpse the lake before the water is lost from view as you journey down through a tree lined avenue. It is only when you reach the house and lake level that the entrance courtyard reveals a dramatic double-height atrium that frames the lake beyond. Your gaze extends through the house and beyond inviting you to continue your journey further into the site.

Paragraph 79 design sketch
Contemporary country house living room with views

Extending from the ground floor atrium a terrace becomes a meandering boardwalk (designed by our talented friends at Seed Landscape) which circumnavigates the perimeter of the lake with floating pontoon terraces to pause and reflect. Viewed from across the lake the house appears to hover above the earth, a response to the rising water levels. The site is located on a bedrock of limestone, historically quarried and used to build many buildings in the area. Referencing this past, through the metaphorical extraction and stacking of limestone blocks and plates, the new building is formed.

We question. We question our clients, the site, the design, we question techniques, materials and collaborators. By constantly questioning we are always learning and improving, pushing our designs forward. We are architectural storytellers and it is essential to us that every project has a different storyline that is unique and considerate of the people and place.

Contemporary country house built of limestone and timber

The heavy masonry limestone base of the villa is carved out to create bedrooms, each with its own private terrace unfolding directly to the lakeside garden. Elements of the stone rise dramatically through the house to become a gallery wall, a fireplace and the kitchen table. The main living and family spaces are elevated to the first floor exposed to nature and light – a contrast to the solidity and sanctuary of the ground floor. A long overhanging roof anchored by the stone gallery wall and chimney extends outwards over the south and west terraces providing shelter from both sun and rain. An elevated kitchen garden accessed from the first-floor kitchen is located above the spa and guest wing ensuring the physical connection with landscape present throughout the house.

Modern paragraph 79 house floating above a lake in Buckinghamshire, Milton Keynes

Whilst this is a house in tune with nature and its site, it is also a house largely driven by the technological business skills of its client. Nearby Milton Keynes is a dynamic hub of technological industry with a rich history of forward thinking and architectural modernism, evident in its layout and planning. This proved rich inspiration both for the aspiration of this home and its form. This house is designed to be carbon positive, employing a closed-loop water-based heat pump system to harness the inherent energy stored in the lake: It felt intuitive to us that a house located in a flood plain, adjacent to a lake be heated, in part by water.