Woodland House

T.A.P. Architects, Scottish Borders, 2019


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Located 5 miles from the market town of Lauder, in the rolling agricultural landscape of the Scottish Borders, Pyatshaw is a small hamlet comprising of a loose collection of houses; each house occupying small clearings between areas of dense woodland

In 2014, we were asked to design a house within this settlement, in a site bounded on the north side by a fast-flowing burn and on the south by a narrow road. The initial design problem was finding an area large enough to locate the house: flood risk in the flatter areas adjacent to the river made development impossible. Elsewhere, steep slopes and bands of high-quality, protected trees occupied a large proportion of the site. We identified an area towards the western side of the site just large enough to locate a new house, which, although overgrown, had no trees of any maturity.

The extensive root systems of the adjacent trees as well as a very constrained budget, ruled out using large scale retaining structures, and suggested that the internal levels of the house should follow the slope. This led to the development of a stepped-section, with the accommodation split across five different floor levels, accessed via a hallway that is fully glazed to the west side and contains steps, doorways and places to sit, all animated by shifting, tree-filtered light. At the end of this ascending route is the dramatic, wedge-shaped living space. The construction budget of £210,000 (including new utilities connections) excluded the use of a single, principle contractor and instead a local project manager was appointed who was to coordinate the works on site.

Separate trades contractors were then individually appointed by the client, minimising overhead and management costs. This approach, combined with the use of cost-effective forms of construction and re-purposed materials for flooring, fixtures and fittings, allowed for this very low-cost target to be achieved.

Photography by David Barbour


  • Begun: May 2019
  • Completed: May 2019
  • Floor area: 148m2
  • Sector: Residential
  • Total cost: £210,000
  • Funding: Private
  • Tender date: Jan 2018
  • Procurement: SBCC Minor Works with individual trades, coordinated on site by project manager
  • Address: Pyatshaw, Scottish Borders, TD2, United Kingdom