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Brooke Coombes House scoops Manser Medal

This year's winner of the Manser Medal for the best one-off house in Britain is Burd Haward Marston Architects for its Brooke Coombes House in Ealing, west London.

The £310,000 project has already gained the practice a number of plaudits, with Burd Haward Marston recently being appointed to the young architect panel of major housing association Circle 33. The success is all the more remarkable since the scheme was the firm's first new structure building - it had previously only worked on extensions and interiors.

'It is a fantastic design, 'said Michael Manser, chairman of the judging panel. 'It is exceedingly simple, which is always difficult to achieve. The structure is very clear and precise, and there are some very innovative designs.

There are also a lot of energy-saving features.

The late Alex Gordon used to use the phrase, 'Loose fit, long life, low energy' This design certainly encompasses all those points.'

'We are obviously delighted and very proud, ' said Catherine Burd, one of the partners at the practice. 'It has been a busy period for BHMA.

We have also just heard that the house has received a commendation from the Civic Trust and has been shortlisted for an RIBA regional award. Also, two big projects have started on site - a new art gallery for Flowers East and a design studio development in Bethnal Green.'

The house, which was featured in the AJ last year (AJ 30.8.01), was designed with the aim of producing a low-cost, modern, family home.

While the client had chosen a self-build scheme, Burd Haward Marston did not want to be constrained by the commonly understood selfbuild methods or materials of construction that often result in a low-tech aesthetic, Burd said.

Making use of the available specialist technology and with more than a nod to the current trend for prefabrication, the resulting design avoids the feared 'handcrafted' look. The house also engages with the contemporary issues of sustainability and energy conservation.

The planning of the building itself is fairly simple. Set out on a grid and arranged according to a straightforward diagram, the house is divided with compact living quarters on one side and a glazed courtyard on the other. In contrast to the glass-walled courtyard and subverting the front/back relationship of the house, the main living area appears solid - wrapped on three sides by a thick, highly insulated, terracotta-clad wall, with precisely placed windows.

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