Peter Zumthor’s layered concrete villa surveys the Devonshire countryside

The Swiss architect has created his first permanent project in the UK, a holiday home for the Living Architecture project near Chivelstone in South Devon.

Peter Zumthor's Secular Retreat, a holiday home nestled into a hilltop site defined by mature pine trees, is nearing completion.

Layers of concrete built up to frame the large windows of low-lying building give the impression of rammed earth, helping to soften the form into the site that was formerly occupied by the ruin of a wooden house built in the 1940s. 

The plan centres on a large open-planned living space, with five bedrooms and en suite bathrooms extending off it in a pair of wings. 

The floors of the living space and bathrooms are laid with large but irregular slabs of stone quarried from a site in Somerset.

Pearwood boards lend a cosier atomosphere to the bedrooms, which too benefit from large, broad windows that face gardens designed by local studio Rathbone Partnership and the pastoral landscape beyond. 

Secular Retreat, Peter Zumthor, UK, 2018
Layers of concrete built up to frame the large windows of low-lying building give the impression of rammed earth

The unveiling of Secular Reteat marks the completion of the Living Architecture project, a series of holiday homes in England commissioned from some of the biggest names in contemporary architecture by the Anglo-Swiss philosopher Alain de Botton.

The scheme, which started in 2006, has seen holiday homes by John Pawson, MVRDV, FAT with Grayson Perry, Jarmund/Vigsnæs Architects, NORD and Hopkins Architects pop up around the English countryside.

Project :
Secular Retreat
Atelier Peter Zumthor
Project team:
Peter Zumthor, Rainer Weitschies, Duarte Brito, Pascal Berchtold, Tom Tsapkov, Anna Page
Executive architect (phase 1):
Mole Architects
Local architectural adviser (conceptual stage):
David Sheppard Architects
Landscape design :
The Rathbone Partnership
Jane Wernick Associates

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