Weathered cork-clad beach house blends in beautifully with marshy landscape

Lisa Shell Architects
© Lisa Shell Architects

Cork has a lot going for it as a building material: it is fully renewable, a great alternative to other toxic insulating materials, and has that warm, natural feel that makes it an attractive covering for floors, and even for making longer-lasting appliances.

Designed to replace a derelict beach house in Essex dating back to the 1920s, this modern, cork-clad, cross-laminated timber (CLT) structure by UK architect Lisa Shell feels like it's part of the flat and watery salt marsh landscape, thanks to its use of natural materials that allow it to blend in.

Lisa Shell Architects© Lisa Shell Architects

According to The Guardian, this area is prone to flooding, so the beach house has been elevated on red stilts to permit any coastal overflow to go underneath.

Lisa Shell Architects© Lisa Shell Architects

In addition to some reclaimed wooden materials being used on its intimate interior, the home has been clad with 180mm thick expanded cork agglomerate overcoat, made from the by-products of wine cork production in Portugal, says Inhabitat. The process to make these panels employs only heat and compression to create a chemical bond between the cork particles. The panels themselves are not coated with any polyurethane, to allow them to weather naturally to a gentle gray.

Lisa Shell Architects© Lisa Shell Architects

The cork has already attracted some wildlife, increasing local biodiversity through extra habitat provided by human-made architecture, says Shell:

Within two months of completion, sparrows have already taken up residence in one of the integrated nesting boxes. It was also important that support was won for the unconventional design from the community of both permanent and occasional residents in the small hamlet.

Lisa Shell Architects© Lisa Shell Architects

The raised home, covered in weathered cork, does look like it's a bird perched among the quiet grasses and blue skies of this lovely region, showing that renewable materials can go a long way in making a home exist more in harmony with its surroundings. Better yet, it's been designed to offer an extra haven to wildlife in order to boost local biodiversity, something that architects everywhere could certainly do more often. For more information, visit Lisa Shell Architects.

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