Victoria Guthrie discovers The Studios at Colt House in Aldeburgh

Aldeburgh and the surrounding area could be considered one of the main creative hubs in Suffolk. It will come as no surprise then, that in July 2014 work commenced on two twinned multifunctional studio spaces set on an existing residential plot within the Aldeburgh landscape. The owners, both creatives, wanted two low maintenance spaces in which to create their art away from the hubbub of London for a few days each week.

Removed from the main property, the studios sit elegantly within the landscape. When the owners of the land approached Jamie Le Gallez, director at Soup Architects, they specified that the site topography was to remain unchanged and that the studios should appear to just touch the ground lightly.

The studios are designed to take advantage of existing garage plots and mature planting to utilise the daylight, reduce the visual impact to the surrounding area and create beautiful views of the ever-changing garden and Suffolk sky. The studios were to be seen as a contemplative retreat and low maintenance was also a key element.

Both constructs have skylights which allow the natural light to filter in from above and feature floor to ceiling windows, but neither are south facing as the light is too harsh for the owners’ needs. The buildings are positioned closely together and have similar elements but each studio differs due to the individual requirements for each of the occupants whose artistic disciplines dictate certain things.

Low energy consumption was a key element of the build and this is achieved through a combination of electrical panel heaters that only operate when the buildings are in use and high-level insulation. Both studios also have LED lighting installed in order to significantly reduce the energy demand when compared to more traditional fluorescent lighting. Not only this but all rainwater being diverted into the existing balance pond and has the option to be diverted into a water storage tank. The buildings are also constructed from thermally efficient timber and a steel frame, which promotes a more environmentally friendly way of life by reducing the need for using the heating as much; during January between 10am and 4pm, the heating was not required as the internal temperature was comfortable.

Jamie Le Gallez, director at SOUP Architects, explains about the decision to use corrugated panels for the exterior: ‘historically our client’s family is deeply routed in the supply and construction of corrugated iron buildings of the early 1900s such as churches and huts, and this is referenced with the use of the corrugated panels that also relate the studios contextually to the many agricultural outbuildings in the area and create a modern vernacular language.’

A pragmatic approach is key to all of Soup Architects thinking as is managing the impact of site activity on the environment and using locally sourced materials; Robert Norman Construction was brought in as a building contractor and G C Robertson and Associates worked on the studios as structural engineer.

The studios were announced as one of the 2015 winners of the RIBA Regional Awards, an accolade that recognises important contributions to architecture across the UK. The studios demonstrate that a simple choice of materials, careful consideration into sustainability and attention to detail can lead to a highly successful result.