A normal Monday morning… jobs to do and the week to be planned. Then the phone rings – it’s a garden designer and she tells me to check my emails. On land destined for new housing in Wimbledon sits a superb Japanese temple, and it will be demolished very shortly unless we can dismantle it and take it away. Luckily the designer has already found a home for it – a small country estate in Kent. All we have to do is move it!
On initial inspection, we find that it is extremely well built, and exquisitely detailed. This isn’t going to be easy, but neither will it be dull… A week of careful dismantling later and we were left with a pile of numbered parts and a huge pile of material that couldn’t be saved. Some of the structure had suffered from rot, so a lot would have to be re-created. A crane and large transport lorry transferred the salvaged parts to the new location, where it was stored whilst preparations were made for re-erection on the island.
Unfortunately most of the original bridge had been lost due to decay and some damage during clearance of the site in Wimbledon, so our first task was to install a new bridge to the island. We opted for a curved steel bridge and this was delivered to site in sections. It wasn’t possible to gain access with a crane to install the steel beams, so we had to use our ingenuity to float them across the lake and then fix them to prepared foundations. The new base for the temple required piled foundations, and a reinforced concrete slab.
Re-erection began with the main floor and wall sections, with all of the roof being newly constructed. Our client opted for a slate roof, to reflect the greys and greens of the lake, and we used small-format slates to be in proportion to the roof size and to enable the curved hips to flow. External paths of reclaimed York stone were laid, and bark chipping around the base of the temple to soften the effect.
The colour palette used dark greys and greens, again to reflect the surrounding lake and woods. The actual colours were mixed especially, and many samples came and went until we found the exactly right shade. Natural pond planting has been re-established to give the temple the appearance of permanence and harmony in its setting. Fortunately we were able to save the existing balcony and it projects out over the water on three sides, giving the appearance that the temple is floating.
The finished temple is now called the ‘lake house’, which is apt – partly because it is no longer the traditional colour of a Japanese temple, and partly because it fits so perfectly in its new setting that it seems an entirely new structure. It is a particularly tranquil place, and totally unique.