Loader Monteith – reviving High Sunderland
Loader Monteith, a Glasgow-based architecture practice, has restored High Sunderland, a 1957 modernist icon designed by Peter Womersley for textile designers Bernat and Margaret Klein. The structure, nicknamed “The See-Through House” for its long glazed elevations, suffered extensive structural damage caused by a fire in 2017. Steel roof trusses, insulation, and much of the original timber panelling were destroyed by the fire and extinguishing water. The new owners recognised the importance of the project and asked Loader Monteith to restore and enhance the Category A-listed woodland retreat to its original Womersley vision, with invisible, sustainable upgrades. The architects deftly added many environmentally-friendly systems to High Sunderland’s skeleton, which set a high standard for the impending future of modernist restoration work across the world.
High Sunderland was Womersley’s first private residential commission. Bernat and Margaret Klein lived there until they passed. It was the heart of their professional and personal lives. They built their careers, hosted fashion shows, exhibitions, and raised their family at the woodland retreat.
To increase the thermal performance of the house, Loader Monteith packed insulation into a new warm roof, for which they studied the profiles of Womersley’s other residential projects to find a sympathetic design for the new slightly pitched roofscape. On the new roof, a timber-clad cube hides an Air Source Heat Pump which provides an efficient, low-carbon source of heat for the building. A new wet underfloor heating system in the main lounge area adds improved thermal insulation. Much of the lighting and wiring was updated in line with current electrical safety standards.
Loader Monteith worked closely with a local joiner to preserve the delicate details of the cabinetry, highlighting their commitment not only to the architecture but the personality and use of this over time, and the role it has played in the Kleins’ creative pursuits. The architects demonstrated restraint, respect, and unparalleled care throughout the project, conserving wherever possible, and replicating and camouflaging wherever necessary. High Sunderland is a careful demonstration of the technical expertise required to sensitively upgrade and improve iconic historic buildings, so they can remain to be celebrated and enjoyed for generations to come.
Matt Loader, Director of Loader Monteith, says: “We are hugely privileged to work on a project like High Sunderland; it was a daunting, sobering, and thoroughly enjoyable project to be a part of. I say a part of because the whole consultant and client team worked well together to restore what we all recognise as a precious example of Modernist architectural history.”
Loader Monteith is an architecture practice based in Scotland, known for working across the UK on challenging conservation, residential, and commercial projects. Founded by Matt Loader and Iain Monteith, the studio’s work is characterised by a thoughtful and sustainable approach to design.