A phoenix rises from the ashes

JCA Team:

Michael Clark & David Rhodes

Project Design Team:

Johnston Cave Associates 

(Executive Architects)


Adam Architecture 

(Concept Architects)


Cathedral Works Organisation 

(Stonework Contractor)


Hockley & Dawson 

 (Structural Engineers)


Principal contractor: 

Sizebreed Construction Ltd

Project type:

New build

Project year: 2013
Photographer: M von Sternberg

1952 was seared into the memory of a large estate in Surrey.

It was the year the mansion burnt to the ground. 

A new house was built adjacent to the site, but it wasn’t until a new owner in the turn of the century, had the vision to rebuild a formal property to reestablish command over the parkland and lakes beyond.

The scheme was originally developed and taken through planning by Adam Architecture. A meaningful start on site was established in 2008 by the contractor but another setback followed with them going into liquidation.

It took three years for a suitable contractor to be found. One which had the experience, expertise and financial muscle to realise the works.

Sizebreed Construction were engaged and they promptly appointed Johnston Cave Associates as the Executive Architects. We worked closely with Adam Architecture to ensure that their intent was being respected and followed.

The project comprised the building of a very substantial three-storey dwelling in the Georgian style. It had to provide seven large bedroom suites, a grand reception hall with a cantilevered helical stair and gallery, state rooms plus the usual number of ancillary dwelling spaces that a project of this scale demands. In addition, the new house would adjoin an existing slate-roofed swimming pool building to be connected by a stone loggia with roof terrace above. Provision was to be made in the lower ground floor of the main building to accommodate a full-sized ten pin bowling alley.

As the project developed, JCA was able to build upon the vision of the Adam Architecture concepts. Drawing inspiration from the Pantheon 2,000 years ago, we designed a spectacular coffered dome (complete with oculus roof-light) designed to sit over the principal interior double-height vaulted ceiling space of the reception hall.

JCA were responsible for the full remit of producing information for the contractors to build from, including detailed drawings and specifications. The role of the Executive Architect can be a difficult one, but the project proved to be thoroughly enjoyable due to a good working relationship with Adam Architecture. Ideas were exchanged and trust earned and it was a wonderful opportunity to work on such a grand scale.

Through JCA's knowledge of detailing and working with the classical orders, the resulting space is well resolved with exacting geometric floor finishes and fine joinery details. The breathtakingly slim helical stone stair and sweeping mahogany handrail was carefully calculated and add greatly to the drama of the space. In order to illustrate the ideas to both the client and assist the specialist contractors, JCA developed 3-dimensional computer models.

A particular challenge was how to disguise movement control joints in the structure and finishes, an essential inclusion when building with masonry and particularly at this magnitude. In addition, modern necessities such as trickle ventilation details to windows were carefully considered to ensure that they sat harmoniously with traditional Georgian detailing.

A solution for the trickle vents was developed whereby they are almost invisible, cleverly hidden in a narrow slot to the window head that has the added benefit of forming a very neat abutment detail with the surrounding stone.

The project involved working closely with the stonework sub-contractor, Cathedral Works Organisation (CWO), with regular meetings to discuss detailing and finishing. With every stone component being bespoke, this phase of the project was the most time-consuming on site but with exceptional results in the final finish.

At our suggestion, several components of the stone façades, including the large column capitals were first prepared in clay by a sculptor at CWO. These full-size maquettes were then offered for the design team's approval, allowing us the opportunity to suggest fine-tuning profiles or creating deeper incising to throw further shadows. Once approved, the maquettes were digitally scanned in 3 dimensions to act as a record for subsequent production in solid stone.

The stone detailing and finish was a primary goal in delivering the project. Very careful detailing of the exterior stonework, interior plasterwork and floor layouts was required. Satisfyingly, the movement control joints are invisible and as such do not detract from the building as they so often can.

The roof is finished in standing-seam zinc panels, left untreated in a ‘bright' finish that very quickly patinate to an attractive dull ‘lead' grey. The dome is also finished in zinc panels, but pre-patinated to replicate a traditional weathered copper surface. Each of this panels was cut to an exact ‘orange-segment’ profile to follow the contours of the hemispherical shape. It would not be possible to use copper in conjunction with the bright zinc as their relationship in the galvanic series would lead to the accelerated corrosion of the zinc when rainwater runs from the copper dome down onto it.  

The former owner of the estate, J Whittaker Wright, developed a series of lakes in the 1890's of which one featured a ballroom beneath set in a glazed dome; this remains accessible today, with its presence marked by a statue emerging from the lake.

The grand phoenix has truly risen.