Outbuilding of the Week: Pond House

The challenge: To create a small cabin on the grounds of an English country house in rural Hampshire, to be used both as a meditation space for parents and a playhouse for the kids.

The plan: London-based TDO Architecture wanted to make best use of two distinct natural settings—a dense forest and a small pond—by designing a structure that felt at home in both environments.

The solution: Built over nine months on a small budget of £7,500 (about $10,750), the pond house was TDO Architecture‘s first completed project. (The firm, founded in 2010, has subsequently designed several high-end residential properties.) The tiny house was a good first challenge, and a success: In 2013 it was shortlisted for an award from the Royal Institute of British Architects and a Small Projects Award from UK-based Architects’ Journal.

Photography by Ben Blossom.


Above: The meditation room and play space has a curved timber frame clad in plywood, glass, and copper. It cantilevers over the bank of a small pond in a family garden in Hampshire in the south of England.


Above: TDO Architecture principal Tom Lewith told online magazine Dezeen, “Cantilevering over the pond was important to us, as we wanted the space to physically straddle the forest and pond in the same way we crossed over the two programs.”


Above: When the door to the building is closed, almost all light enters through a single large window facing the water; this is the meditation space. The floor steps down, creating a bench for seated meditation, and water reflections are cast onto the bright plywood interior.


Above: One side of the curved building is clad in copper; it reflects moving light from the pond and receives dappled light through the trees. The remaining exterior surfaces are dark, covered in chalkboard paint so kids can draw. This makes the tiny cabin not only a play space, but also a canvas in the woods.

At right, just inside the cabin, the ceiling slopes down to create a child-sized nook.


Above: The kids may play in the meditation half when not in use, but the play space was designed largely on the forest side of the structure. “We saw the forest as being dark, mysterious, and busy—a place for kids to have fun,” said Lewith.


Above: Upon approach, nothing about the dark, sharp-edged, forest-side exterior suggests a light-filled, curved, watery calm inside. The cabin mirrors both sides of its environment, thereby meeting its dual purposes. The kids’ half is meant for exploration in the forest, and the meditation space is a still suspension over a moving pond.


Above: The cabin is wired with electricity for nighttime use. Inside, the ceiling angles upward as it approaches the window, creating a dramatic meditation seat lingering over water’s edge.

TDO describes its architecture as “joyful and inventive.” Say the architects, “For [us], the way in which people experience a building is paramount.”


Above: The wood and copper will weather with time and are designed to withstand the temperate climate of Hampshire.


Above: At left, a diagram shows meditation directed toward the water and play directed toward the forest. At right, a model of the cabin extending over water’s edge.

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