Suffolk, United Kingdom

Alex de Rijke, founding director of dRMM Architects in London, and his client for the Sliding House hadn’t seen each other since their days as schoolmates and teenage motorcycle enthusiasts. “I knew that Alex had become an architect,” says the homeowner, “and I Googled him and saw that his company was doing amazing work.” The client had an almost 4-acre plot of land in Suffolk, a mix of rolling hills and flat coastal landscape (Holland, and its horizontal geography, is just across the North Sea), and wanted a weekend getaway where he and his wife could grow their own food, entertain friends and family, and get away from London. What he got instead went from country retreat to full-time home and office (London is now the weekend stay), and from straightforward construction to an inspired, unconventional surprise—a 2,153-square-foot house that transforms from an enclosed volume to a fully glazed, greenhouse-like structure, all with the push of a button.

The house was “self-build”, meaning the homeowner managed the construction himself—not a small feat for a building as technologically comples as this one. It begins simply enough with three barnlike volumes—a linear house separated from an office/studio by a patio, and a garage pulled off-axis, creating a courtyard between the three. Then, a surprise: A 20-ton mobile, shell of steel, timber, insulation, and unstained larch wood set on a track system powered by four hidden car batteries charged by solar roof panels (they can also be charged from outlets), that can slide across the site—covering the house, which is glazed from roof to floor, or creating other combinations of partial enclosure. “There was some internal and some external inspiration for the design,” says de Rijke. “A lifelong love of movement and surprises together with the paradoxical site qualities.” Also, “playing with the English lack of summer houses, and a love of Dutch barn models and motorcycles.”

The “sleeve” takes six minutes to completely uncover the house, a process, says the owner, which is both smooth and quiet. The interior itself isn’t unconventional, per se, but it’s modern and practical, with low-maintenance surfaces like flagstone flooring and laminated cabinetry. The interior walls, painted red, echo the red- and black-stained larch on the exterior.

A house that goes from “conservatory to cave,” as the owner puts it, might not suit everyone, but he finds it inspires a constant sense of wonder. “The mobile walls/roof let you experience the myriad qualities of the light, according to the season, the time of day, and type of weather,” he says, adding that the design includes a future swimming pool. “Alex is convinced that one day I will extend the railway tracks to cover that, and perhaps even continue them into the garden and beyond.” Sliding House’s homeowner isn’t the only one who has been moved. De Rijke says he’s heard that other architects’ imaginations seem to have been captured by the project and are working on an unlikely project: a sliding solution for a fashion house in New York City.


dRMM Architects
No. one Centaur Street
London SE1 7EG, UK
T: +44 (0) 20 7803 0777
F: +44 (0) 20 7803 0666

Alex de Rijke (Project Director)
Michael Spooner
Joana Pestana
Goncalves Lages

Project Manager:
Client project managed subcontracted packages

Structural Engineer:
Michael Hadi Associates
Rutger Snoek

Electrical Engineer:
Robert Hart Electrical Engineering

Mechanical Engineer:
DJW Consulting Ltd
Main contractor:
Self-build with extensive use of local and specialist contractors

Alex De Rijke
Ross Russell



Waterproof Membrane:
Flag Sprema UK

Central Piling Ltd

Construction 2000

Cortex Contract Services Ltd

Colson Engineering

Steel frame for roof:
Northbay Engineering Ltd

Scandinavian Window Systems

Bathroom furniture: