'They've Built Them On The Beaches' METRO Feature, 5 March 2019

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Feature in today's METRO on our island home, a converted World War II Concrete Bunker featuring a vibrant yellow vitreous enamel and steel worktop produced at AJ. Wells, a solid paper composite staircase and exterior dazzle fins using Richlite paper composite.


 Property: Metro meets the couple who converted a WWII radar station into a stunning home
Written by: Jo Knowsley Published Mar 4, 2019

WHEN Lincoln Miles and his artist wife Lisa Traxler were invited to visit a former WWII radar bunker on the Isle Of Wight, they had no notion they would end up living there.

It was 2010 and they were viewing the former Royal Air Force radar station — part of the historic coastal Woolverton estate on the southern end of the island — for a client.

From the moment they saw The Bunker, derelict, vandalised and full of cow droppings, with two shabby little Nissen huts nearby, they fell in love with it. Lincoln agreed to design a complementary building and took two years to get planning permission -granted under a paragraph 55 exception which allows for the ennoblement of a heritage asset.

‘It was like an ancient temple,’ Lisa recalls. ‘We both felt it was a very special place.’

‘You felt as if you might get spears thrown at you,’ adds Lincoln, who runs Lincoln Miles Architecture and who has some experience interpreting highly unusual buildings.

The couple had moved to the island from London in 2003 and made their home, with Lisa’s then seven-year-old daughter Ellie, on a 70ft-long WWII motor torpedo boat. It inconveniently sank the week before they arrived, though they successfully raised and refurbished it.They then bought an old bungalow, near Ryde, which they built around, rather than demolished, constructing the fabulous Tarn, (the House In The Trees), which featured on Grand Designs in 2010.


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Defensive move: Lisa designed the camouflage ‘fins’ as a nod to the building’s wartime history

In 2014, however, their client on The Bunker changed his mind about the development and Lisa and Lincoln had no hesitation in buying it — although it’s proved their most challenging project to date. After a testing build — much of which Lincoln did himself, including his development of a prototype, slim window-framing system, using CNC technology and paper composite Richlite — the family finally moved into their new 3,100sq ft home at Christmas 2016. The result is a triumph, seamlessly blending the restored bunker, with its concrete blast wall and yawning 16ft-tall ceilings, with a new glass, block work and concrete home that celebrates the monumental and reflects the aura of secrecy and danger which was so much a part of its history.
The new building, alongside, has ten and a half feet-tall glass sliding glazed doors around the back of the house, which can be fully opened to the elements and offer uncompromised views over lush farmland and trees to the sea.

Lisa designed the perforated Richlite-camouflage ‘fins’, which dramatically dress the outside of the building (all clip together, with not a nail or screw in sight) in a dazzle pattern synonymous with wartime concealment. Inside, the dazzle design continues — from the vivid yellow-vitreous enamelled steel kitchen worktop to the suspended Richlite staircase. ‘It’s all about the narrative,’ Lincoln says. ‘Lisa and I worked in partnership to create the aesthetic of camouflage we felt was right.’

From the entrance you cannot really see the house at all. Access is down a steep bricked drive and the first glimpse of the property reveals a garage covered by a four feet-tall grassy mound. This links the bunker, now used as a gallery space, with the new house — though cleverly, at its core the two are not joined at all. Inside, the focus is all about looking outwards, across the land and the sea.

The lower levels have concrete floors throughout and the walls are exposed block work from the island. The upper storey is a cross-laminated timber construction leaving the bare wood on show. The sweeping stairwell in the living room is cast concrete, while a stunning feature wall, behind the wood burning stove, is blown-out aluminium which rather resembles a silver-coated lunar landscape.


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Outside, the two Nissen huts have become ‘his and hers’ workspaces — an architectural practice for Lincoln and Lisa’s professional art practice. Her commissioned work in vitreous enamel and steel has been inspired by the site.

The home has thermal insulation, airtight construction and its own water supply with PV and solar panels. Lisa and Lincoln love the history of The Bunker — including the mythology repeated in Adrian Searle’s book, Churchill’s Last Wartime Secret, that German commandos were dropped off from a submarine nearby in WWII in a dramatic attempt to capture a key element of the bunker’s radar.

What most pleases the couple, however, is that they have succeeded in creating a home that conserves and preserves a vital piece of British history and is also a joy to live in.

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Challenging build: Lincoln and Lisa fell in love with The Bunker the minute they saw it

‘We don’t consider anything as our “forever” home,’ says Lincoln, who has another futuristic, eco-style project, the Q House, based on a Victorian coach house, in design nearby. (He’s looking for a buyer.) ‘But we’re pretty happy living here,’ he tells us. ‘The Bunker and the new house are not connected under the mound. So if in 100 years time somebody wanted to knock down our house, The Bunker could still be preserved.’

It’s a thought. But I’d be the first to stand in front of the bulldozer.

■ lincolnmilesarchitecture.com, lisatraxler.com
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