After Three Years of Politics, Meier Debuts in Great Britain

After three years of politics (and 35 years of practice in Europe and the United State), Richard Meier is moving forward with his first residence in Great Britain.

The planning application for his Handsmooth House, designed for comedic actor Rowan Atkinson and his wife Sunetra, was approved on August 25 by the South Oxfordshire District Council.

“Anything built in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty has to go through a rather rigorous review process,” Meier says. “The biggest challenge of the design process was getting the approval – the politics.”

The 10,000 square foot home will be sited on 80 acres near a small village in Hampshire. A well-sited but poorly built 50-year old farmhouse, along with adjacent buildings, will be removed, and the new house built on its exact location. “It is a beautiful site that’s wooded on one side with a view of open fields on the other,” he says.

The new residence consolidates a number of structures into a simple contemporary version of a manor house, and will include a tennis court and guesthouse. The unified, sculptural design of the house is classic Meier, a pure and elegant white and glass structure with attention to natural light and clean modern lines.

“The clients wanted a high-quality modern house, and not just a pastiche of the kinds of things you see elsewhere,” he says. His design is site-specific and is meant to reflect and communicate the beauty of the surrounding area. “Its context is its landscape – it’s the best.”

Well known in the states for his role as a verbally challenged vicar in 1994’s Four Weddings and a Funeral, Atkinson and his wife met Meier at an exhibit of the architect’s work in London a few years ago. “They came up and introduced themselves and suggested we meet and talk about the house,” he says. “They had the land already. I saw it and thought: ‘This is great!’”

The architect hopes to inspire a new heritage of modern design in the English countryside.

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