The lack of modern country houses: FT Special Report

Grafton New Hall, Cheshire (Image: Ushida Findlay Architects)

The building of a country house used to be the ultimate expression of success. It was the sign that a man had achieved much that he wished to do and was now able to devote time and resources to this rural ‘badge of honour’.  Importantly, the success, learning, and attitude of the owner was to be expressed through his choice of architecture.  This determined individualism led to a vast range of styles – French chateau, gothic, ne0-classical – but one style which is lacking is the modern(ist) country house.

The FT report highlights how, after the decline in country house ownership during the early 20th century, those few country houses which have been built have been largely of a Classical design.  Indeed, when Ushida Findlay Architects proposed a radical ‘starfish’ design to replace the old Grafton Hall in Cheshire, the plan languished for years, never attracting an owner wishing to invest in the concept.  However, permission has now been granted for the construction of a large Classical house by Robert Adam.  This is another sign of the hold that this elegant style of architecture still not is aesthectically pleasing but also appeals to the ‘masculine’ objectives of building a house which states the power and wealth of the owner.

This attitude has moved modern country houses into the realm of the bespoke, ultra-luxury market and away from the aspirations of the merely wealthy.  In many ways, it’s good to see our exsiting stock of houses being cared for but there is also an important architectural history which needs to be expanded through the building of high-quality, modern country houses – able to meet the demanding standards of the contemporary rich but also to push forward the design of one of the most important elements of British architecture.

Full story: ‘Building Blocks‘ []

2 thoughts on “The lack of modern country houses: FT Special Report

  1. Osomec April 14, 2010 / 02:16

    There are quite enough ugly modern buildings serving every other conceivable purpose, so there is no need to build ugly country houses. Any way, “modern” architecture is now itself an old style – a bad old style.

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