We'd all love a luxury holiday home. But, if money were no object, how many of us would think of investing in an old gravel pit near Cirencester?...
Messing about on one's river.
But, thanks to the vision, and bravery, of land-owner Jeremy Paxton, the rich, famous and architecturally adventurous may soon be queuing up to spend their R & R time in Gloucestershire.
A former water-skiing champion, Paxton has already built several hundred exclusive houses on the site of the Lower Mill Estate, which boasts lakes, ponds, swimming pools, an organic farm, and a nearby airport.
But he has now raised his sights from mere holiday heaven to architectural nirvana. And, with a little help from a team of 23 famously uncompromising architects, he is building the world's most unusual holiday homes Lower Mill Landmark Houses.
The Lower Mill Estate
Forget GFCH and original features, these groundbreaking designs include exploding roofs, spinning storeys, rooftop swimming pools and bedrooms that slide in and out like drawers.
And, although some of them may look more like somewhere to store the motor cruiser than home-sweet-home, they are arousing interest from the architecturally astute around the world, including a few Hollywood stars.
Land owner Jeremy Paxton, The Lower Mill Estate with one of the residents!
One big name, however, who lives just four miles from the development, probably won't be sending for a brochure.
For Prince Charles, whose own architectural venture, Poundbury, received mixed press, the phrase 'monstrous carbuncle' may come in handy again.
But, if you could see yourself swapping otter-spotting stories around the lake with the glitterati, money really must be no object. These one-off buildings will set you back between £2 and £10 million.
And, if that doesn't put you off, remember that as they are officially holiday homes, you will only be allowed to live in them for 11 months of the year!
Although it will probably be a few years yet before the houses are open for viewings, we can give you a sneak preview of the first eight. They may not be to everyone's taste, but, then again, they weren't designed for everyone.
1. The Alsop House
The architect: Will Alsop
The concept: A timber-clad flared tube. One half forms the living space, the other half is a glazed winter garden.
Tell me more: Situated on an island, the entire ground floor can slide out from the main house, through the open garden area, and hang over the water like a pier.
Would Suit: Definitely one for a lazy water lover. If the mountain won't come to Mohammed& then put it on wheels and drag it over.
Alsop House designed by Will Alsop
2. Hide House
The architect: Alison Brooks
The concept: A hybrid patio house/barn building that hovers over its waterside site like an amphibious craft.
Tell me more: This house is probably amazing from the inside, with reflections from the water filling the interior with moving light. The exterior, however, covered in rusted steel and mirrored glass, may not catch on.
Would Suit: Someone avoiding cold callers, or visits from poor relatives (they would never find the front door). Also good for a narcissist who could keep checking his appearance when he's in the garden.
Hide House designed by Alison Brooks
3. Orchid House
The architect: Sarah Featherstone
The concept: The design is based on the opening bud of one of the bee orchids that grow on the site.
Tell me more: Camouflaged to blend into the landscape, this giant bud is strikingly beautiful. Unlike many of the others, this house is very simple, with rooms fanning out from the kitchen like leaves.
Would Suit: Horticulturists might consider this house. But the resemblance to a cracking dinosaur's egg would also make it a must-buy for anyone with a child under the age of ten.
The Orchid House by Sarah Featherstone
4. Watermark House
The architect: Piers Gough
The concept: Standing in the water, the house spirals up like a looping coil of rope.
Tell me more: Despite the slight multi-storey car park look, this is a very glamorous building. Curling round to create three storeys, it culminates in a roof terrace with a full-length infinity pool under the open sky. Wonderful!
Would Suit: Art lovers who want to create their own mini Guggenheim; skateboard enthusiasts, who, with a minor modification could have a lot of fun down the stairs; and anyone with a phobia about corners.
The Watermark House designed by Piers Gough
5. Private House
The architect: Eva Jericna
The concept: An open-ended floating box on stilts.
Tell me more: This house pays no lip service to the rural environment. Hovering physically and spiritually above the water on mirror-polished stilts, it is uncompromisingly sleek and sophisticated.
Would Suit: Green-wellie owners need not apply. This is a country house for city lovers.
Private House designed by Eva Jericna
6. The Sundance Villa
The architect: Richard Reid
The concept: A three-storey circular villa with a rotating top floor.
Tell me more: Remember the restaurant at the top of the Post Office Tower? This is better. Not only does the Sundance Villa's top floor spin, but parts of the roof also open up. Also boasts a sauna, screening room, and two pools.
Would Suit: Ideal for a sun-worshipping media mogul who is enticed by the prospect of never having to reposition his sun lounger.
The Sundance Villa designed by Richard Reid
7. Spec-deck House
The architect: Roger Sherman Architecture
The concept: Built over the water, the Spec-Deck's three bedrooms can be floated out on pontoons for sleeping au sauvage.
Tell me more: Protected only by mosquito-netted "tents" the three bedrooms slide out onto the water, revealing beneath them goodies such as a sauna, a Jacuzzi and a freshwater lap pool (a netted-off area of the pond).
Would Suit: Someone with a fetish for tidying (expect to hear cries of "and put your bedroom away!"), who likes water rats and has a large supply of goose fat to help him withstand the freezing pond water.
Spec-deck House designed by Roger Sherman Architecture
8. The Boat House
The architect: Charlie Sutherland and Charlie Hussey
The concept: A contemporary interpretation of the traditional boathouse.
Tell me more: Far less swanky, the main feature of the house is a timber-slat "arbour" placed over the entire house, which provides privacy and dappled shade for the open areas, but does look a bit like a picnic hamper.
Would Suit: A shy boating enthusiast who doesn't mind ending up with a stripy tan.
The Boat House designed by Charlie Sutherland & Charlie Hussey
9 September 2008
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