Meet the architect


Architect Rolf Nielsen talks about his vision for Golden Mede.

"Housing design where I come from is highly regarded for its simplicity and quality. It’s not about showcasing interesting architecture for the sake of it – it’s about building homes with comfortable proportions and ample daylight. Using great materials is also important, and insisting on the highest standards of workmanship."

 

How did you get involved with the project?

The Rothschild Foundation invited my firm, CF Møller, to join in an international design competition in 2013. I saw Golden Mede as a wonderful opportunity to do something very different and worthwhile in residential design, so I was delighted when we were selected to take our ideas forward. I feel blessed to be involved.

What’s your overall design vision for Golden Mede? Has anything in particular inspired your work here?

First and foremost, this is a piece of landscape architecture, with homes within it. I’ve taken the Buckinghamshire countryside – especially the Waddesdon Estate – as my inspiration, and brought it into the design wherever possible. Also, I love the Arts and Crafts buildings in and around the village, and have reimagined that commitment to quality and detail in a modern way.

Another big influence is my Scandinavian background. Housing design where I come from is highly regarded for its simplicity and quality. It’s not about showcasing interesting architecture for the sake of it – it’s about building homes with comfortable proportions and ample daylight. Using great materials is also important, and insisting on the highest standards of workmanship. My role is to design places that enhance people’s quality of life.

WHAT ASPECTS OF THE PROJECT DO YOU FEEL HAVE GONE PARTICULARLY WELL?

I’m delighted that our original vision for Golden Mede is coming to life as we intended. Ideas can often be watered down in the development process, but here they’ve survived intact.

And what I love most of all about these homes is what I call their ‘spatial richness’. There are so many ways you can use the space in these properties. In all the different sizes of apartment and house, we’ve avoided that linear layout you see so often, where the place feels like a tunnel.

We’ve really put a lot of thought into planning the living space, to suit a variety of lifestyles. And the rooms are very nice sizes – considerably larger than in most new homes.


DO YOU HAVE AN IMAGE IN YOUR MIND OF THE SORTS OF PEOPLE WHO WILL LIVE IN THESE HOMES?

Golden Mede will suit all kinds of people. Couples, families, individuals – of all ages. What they’ll have in common is a desire to become part of a community – to be close to the countryside and involved in village life. They’ll also be interested in living somewhere with a really distinctive, modern design, and appreciate how contemporary architecture can build on our heritage without being mock Tudor or mock Georgian.

GOLDEN MEDE IS OBVIOUSLY VERY DIFFERENT FROM OTHER NEW HOUSING DEVELOPMENTS. WHAT DO YOU THINK IS THE ONE FEATURE THAT MOST SETS IT APART?

If I had to choose one thing, it would be the connection between the buildings and the landscape. We designed everything in the context of the Waddesdon Estate. These homes are perfect for the location. They couldn’t be anywhere else.

LOOKING AT YOUR PORTFOLIO OF PROJECTS, YOU’VE CREATED SOME IMPRESSIVE BUILDINGS OVER THE YEARS. WHICH ARE YOUR FAVOURITES?

The University of Aarhus in Denmark is important for me, mainly because of the way the campus buildings seem to grow out of the gorge they’re arranged on. Hospice Djursland, also in Denmark, is another memorable project. Wherever you go in the building, the beautiful landscape is always present.

WHAT’S EXCITING YOU IN ARCHITECTURE RIGHT NOW?

There’s a new appreciation of the craftsmanship that goes into buildings, and an emphasis on seeking out the best and most appropriate materials. This is leading to some stunning architecture, where every detail gives pleasure.


WHY DID YOU WANT TO BECOME AN ARCHITECT? AND IF YOU WEREN’T AN ARCHITECT, WHAT WOULD YOU HAVE BEEN?

Architecture combines so many fascinating activities: history, critical thinking, art and craft. It also gives me the opportunity to be involved in a highly creative process. If I wasn’t an architect, I’d still want that creativity in my work – so I’d probably be a painter or an illustrator.

IN A FEW WORDS, WHY DO YOU THINK PEOPLE WILL CHOOSE TO LIVE AT GOLDEN MEDE?

The rural lifestyle is a big attraction. But most important is the contemporary approach to that lifestyle. And the way it’s all defined by the cultural heritage of Waddesdon. Not everyone will want to live in Golden Mede, but those who do will really, really want to.