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Serpentine Slides For A 19th-Century English Manor

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In collaboration with London’s Purcell architecture firm, Manhattan-based architect Rafael de Cárdenas has designed an addition for a manor-house—an atmospheric pool pavilion with a set of sculptural slides.

The pavilion sits perpendicular to the 19th-century building in the English countryside — creating a sheltered courtyard in the divide.“Given that the pool house was going to be in its own building,” de Cárdenas explains, “the main thing was to make it feel like a destination, something quite distinct from the main house, but that complement its surroundings.” Built from brick and copper, the building was designed to harmonize with the existing home whilst adding a contemporary touch. The space is experiential and refined — but designed with the clients, and their children, in mind. The inside of the ceiling has been lined with ridged fiberglass panels that are an architectural feature, designed for their changing quality in light and their noise dampening ability. The walls and floors around the pool have been crafted from Botticino marble, and then scored and treated with an anti-slip finish to avoid accidents. Indeed, de Cárdenas’ attention to detail is evident in every finish: The sheets of Azul Macula quartzite that line the pool were book-matched on site to ensure that there was a consistency of grain, and the shape of the hot-tub is mimicked by the skylight above it and the curved room that it sits at the center of.

“The main thing was to make it feel like a destination, something quite distinct from the main house, but that would draw on and complement its surroundings.”

While working for Calvin Klein in the early ’90s, Rafael de Cárdenas read an article about the Bilbao Guggenheim that prompted him to enroll at U.C.L.A.’s architecture school. He’d only just graduated from Rhode Island School of Design’s fashion program — but that didn’t quell his enthusiasm for this new direction. This dual background is apparent in his atmospheric touch — since founding Rafael de Cárdenas Ltd. / Architecture at Large in 2006, he has completed projects as wide-ranging as furniture design, museum installations, and interiors. You can see more of his work in his recently published monograph here.

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All images © Polly Tootal