The Wells are an antipodean family who has been residents in the Dulwich area (Herne Hill) for 10 years. They have four girls (ranging in age from 8 to 16 years old), who attend local schools. Having outgrown their current house Knox Bhavan were commissioned to design them a new house on a half-acre empty site in Dulwich Village. The house is on College Road. The brief was for an invisibly serviced,  six-bedroom house to include one spare bedroom separate from the family. All rooms to be generously proportioned with the main habitable rooms having a strong relationship to the garden.

Project Name: College Road
Architect Name: Knox Bhavan Architects

College Road by Knox Bhavan Architects - Sheet2
© Knox Bhavan Architects

Planning Contraints

The house is on College Road, halfway between Soanes’ Dulwich Picture Gallery, and Barrys’ Dulwich College. It is in Southwark’s’ Dulwich Wood Conservation Area. The character of which is large detached houses in large gardens of varied style and configuration. The house is also within the 1500 acres controlled by The Dulwich Estate. The Estate has onerous Policy Guidelines, and tightly controls all forms of development within its curtilage. In addition to obtaining Planning Approval from Southwark, a Licence was obtained from the Trustees of the Estate.

College Road by Knox Bhavan Architects - Sheet3
© Knox Bhavan Architects

Form & Orientation

The house is ‘L’ shaped, orientated to face south. The main part of the house is two-storey (above ground) with a pitched roof. It measures 8 x 24 metres. A narrow service yard runs between the new house and its neighbour. An open gable faces onto College Road, with an apse end facing the garden. A smaller single storey pavilion to the south is separated from the main house, by a glazed entrance. Under the main house sits a large basement.

The house has been planned so that the servicing rooms (bathrooms, utility, toilets, and storage) are on the north side. These face onto the service yard, and the neighbouring house. The curvaceous north elevation is like a castle wall with small openings punctured the solid brick construction, including slot windows onto a turret staircase. In contrast on the south side, the habitable rooms, with generously sized windows, collect the sun and enjoy views across the garden. In this way, solar energy and light are harnessed while heat loss is minimised passively through form and orientation.

College Road by Knox Bhavan Architects - Sheet4
© Knox Bhavan Architects

Ground Floor :

The front entrance is positioned between the main house and the single-storey pavilion. As you enter it is deliberately unclear whether you are inside or out. You enter between a stone wall (to the Pavilion on the right) and a brick wall (to the house on the left). The entrance hall has a glass roof, and a glazed wall gives you a view to the garden beyond. The large window on the front gable lights a sweeping formal staircase, which links all three levels. The timber louvres on the window are carefully graded to give privacy at ground level, becoming more open towards the top. The ground floor circulation runs through the main living areas: TV Room, Dining/Kitchen to the apse Sitting Room. The Dining/Kitchen has a large pair of sliding doors, which slide back completely and the stone floor runs continuously to seamlessly connect the room with the terrace outside. The circular timber panelled Sitting Room with bespoke parquet floor has tall six pairs of French doors opening directly onto the garden. In the single-storey pavilion, the music room/study leads to the guest bedroom and bathroom.

First Floor :

The first floor rooms open up to the roof. Dividing bedroom walls stop short of the ceiling and are isolated from it by a narrow glazed clerestorey. This enables the smooth pitched ceiling to fly through the entire length of the house from one end to the other. Three semi-circular bathrooms are positioned on the north side of the house. These have smooth ‘shell-like’ spherical ceilings and are crowned with glass lanterns. The four identical children’s bedrooms each have a bay window (facing onto the garden) and an integral study desk. Bedrooms are identified by their coloured wardrobes, on the south side of the first-floor corridor. During the day the bedroom doors remain in the open position so have been carefully detailed to be lost in ‘pockets’ within the bedroom wall (door face coplanar with plaster surface). This enables the corridor space to become part of the whole living space. The master bedroom is at the apse end, with panoramic views onto the garden. The cills of these windows get progressively higher and the windows smaller the closer you get to the neighbouring garden.

College Road by Knox Bhavan Architects - Sheet5
© Knox Bhavan Architects

External Materials

The house is traditional cavity wall construction. The front gable and the single-storey wall sweeping around the single Pavilion are faced with limestone laid in ashlar courses. Stone quoins on the ends of the gable lock the stone face into the brickwork, which clads the remainder of the house. Brickwork reduces the scale and simplifies the free-flowing wall construction on the north elevation. Sawtooth brickwork panels (similar to the brickwork on the Great Hall at Dulwich College) are placed between the first-floor windows on the south elevation and on the apse end. These provide wonderful shadows and angular texture to contrast the smooth sinuous curves of the house. The house has a natural slate pitched roof. The three semicircular bathroom dormers and the eaves are clad in Rheinzink. The single-storey Pavilion has a shallow angled lead sheet roof. All windows are manufactured out of European Oak and have high-performance double glazing.


The house has a number of energy-saving,  sustainable features, these include:

Eight Solar panels set in the south-facing roof provide hot water for the house and preheating for the refurbished swimming pool.

Whole House Ventilation with heat recovery, outgoing exhaust air heat is recovered to heat the incoming fresh air.

A buried 20,000 litre Rainwater Harvesting storage tank collects all the rainwater to water the garden.

The house is insulated beyond the requirements of the Building regs.

College Road by Knox Bhavan Architects - Sheet6
© Knox Bhavan Architects


Standard Form of Building Contract with Quantities (2005 edition with Amendments 1), which was awarded to Durtnell & Sons following a selective tender. Construction started on site in October 2007, and Practical Completion was reached on 17th July 2009.


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