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Dartford lies within the area known as the London Basin. The low-lying marsh to the north of the town consists of London Clay and the alluvium brought down by the two rivers—the Darent and the Cray—whose confluence is in this area. The surrounding landscape presents impressive cliffs where we can observe the different strata that constitute the soil section of the area, made apparent around the Bluewater Centre. The design of Orchard House echoes the local landscape and presents itself as a sculpted mass of soil that has been eroded to respond to its immediate surrounding through a series of recesses and deep shadows that animate the external appearance. The predominant material of the façade is rammed earth. Prefabricated blocks of large format of up to 1 meter in length are assembled forming masonry planes. These blocks are rich in natural tonal variations and contain 10x less embedded carbon than that of conventional brick. The shadows and variations on the surface obtained from the mix of different coarse aggregates confer the building a subtle texture that echoes that of a natural cliff which is so commonly found in Kent and Dartford in particular. The plinth that separates the rammed earth volume from the ground and folds to become the canopy and walls of the access is clad in GRC panels of light colour that slightly contrast with the beige warm tones of the rammed earth blocks. The new building provides a mix of 14 homes including 1-bed and 2-bed apartments for rental accommodation. The particularity of the volumetric composition of the building is the different positions of the 2-bed apartment on each floor forming a spiral. This movement creates a rich variation of unit types and their positions in space, avoiding the simple repetition of a layout across all levels, and providing a complex arrangement that offers multiple choices of views and apartment sizes on each floor.


Dartford, United Kingdom


Old Manor Estates








1150 sqm 


Xavier Aguiló - BAC Socotec, TaD Planning, Waldrams, RMB Consultants, Canterbury Archeological Trust, MRL Acostics, FSEC

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