Kent’s vernacular is characterised by ‘dynamic wastelands’ and sites at the edge, with uncertainty, change, and non-pastoral imagery such as Dungerness – representing a “stripped down existence lacking boundaries whilst being on the edge of everywhere.” as described by Corrina Dean for a 2015 Kent Design conference on the vernacular.
And visiting just before the season changed on an exceptional sunny Friday noon in late October there was a sense of being at the edge: the site of what could be “possibly the last” black vernacular minimalist hut to be given an award at Dungerness, was sitting in the clear blue of the sky and gold of this very unusual spit of flint shingle. This beach has been managed for over 1200 years, a spit or ‘ness’ forming the largest cuspate foreland in England. Dungerness is a desert, and its beach is part of a system of ever shifting barrier beaches along this south coast. This area is exposed, endlessly reinforced, surprisingly cool, and actually a very fragile ecology.
It is fitting that a house here should aim to minimise energy use, as it is in sight of the nuclear power station. The design code is simple: the existing footprint of the fisherman’s hut and its outbuilding clusters needed to be kept. The garden is simply shingle that will be colonised with the plants around. Black stained timber cladding comes from a local Sussex source. But this is just the outer coat: a waterproof layer sits inside. Highly insulated, with triple glazed windows and a cosy wood burning stove, the elements can be viewed but not felt.
This is a small space for a home and storage is a s well considered as a caravan. However all the spaces link and the windows create views out into the landscape on all sides. One old outbuilding was kept in its original form, and this provides the shed. The air source heat pump sits beside it. There was a need to respond sensitively to the shingle, and in places the structure overhangs but does not touch the shingle.