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AJ Small Projects Awards winner announced

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Croft Lodge Studio by Kate Darby and David Connor has been announced as the winner of AJ Small Projects 2017

The ‘intriguing’ preservation and conversion of a listed 300-year-old ruined cottage in Leominster, Herefordshire – complete with dead ivy and old birds’ nests – cost just £160,000 to build.

The design team behind the scheme – Kate Darby and David Connor, who are married and work from the lodge – will receive £2,500 for the award, which is now in its 22nd year and celebrates innovative projects built on a budget of less than £250,000.

The jury described said the 115m² scheme – coincidentally also shortlisted today for an RIBA West Midlands regional award – as ‘beautifully executed’, ‘unpretentious’, and praised the design for not ‘romanticising the ruin’.

Kate Darby, founder of Kate Darby Architects said: ‘What is special about the project is the extreme length we went to preserve everything. Initially there was the prejudice to clear it up, but we realised the value of the project was in that extreme approach.’

She added: ‘It was an approach to how you might create something new in an old context. If you go there it is like going back in time – we wanted to do something new and represent the era we come from but in a way that was respectful.’

The judging panel also commended two schemes – Asylum House by M.OS Architects and The Layered Gallery by Gianni Botsford Architects.

Asylum House also won the people’s choice award, topping a poll voted on by 400 AJ readers. 

Croft Lodge Studio was chosen from a 20-strong shortlist selected from nearly 200 entries. The shortlisted schemes were presented to the judging panel on Wednesday in Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ office in Tottenham Street, London.

The winning scheme, which also includes a living room, sleeping area and kitchen, has been designed to become a three-bedroomed house with minimal alterations.

croft lodge 11

croft lodge 11

Among the other finalists were a number of house extensions, a woodland toilet and a public space for a community in Haiti. 

Chaired by AJ editor-in-chief Christine Murray, the jury comprised the winner of the 2008 prize Meredith Bowles, founder of Mole Architects; Kate Goodwin, head of architecture at the Royal Academy; John Boxall, partner at construction consultant Jackson Coles; and Katie Prestidge, marketing communications manager at Marley Eternit.

Last year, three practices took home the AJ Small Projects Award – an extension to a house in Harrogate by Doma Architects, a moveable shelter by Bartlett student Charlie Redman, and a timber cabin in Bristol by Hugh Strange Architects.

Other past winners include Carmody Groarke (2015), Chris Dyson (2014), Haworth Tompkins (2010), Hawkins\Brown (2000), and Chris Wilkinson (1997/8). 

An exhibition of the shortlisted AJ Small Projects will remain open until 26 April in Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ office in Tottenham Street. 

AJ Small Projects is run in association with Marley Eternit

Judges’ comments

Meredith Bowles

‘It’s an intriguing building; you’re intrigued by it and the story that is told in it. Then there is the idea of literally using history – you are living a contemporary life alongside a 300-year-old house as a companion. It’s very beautiful.’

John Boxall

‘The project as it was presented displayed a charm that made it stand out from the others. It was a simple and unpretentious scheme.’

Kate Goodwin

‘At first glance the project is quite modest and has an ordinary quality. But then it is transformed into something surprising and challenging. The strategy was really bold; they did it really well and it was beautifully executed. It doesn’t romanticise the ruin, which it could have done.’

Katie Prestidge

‘I liked how the new building envelopes, engages and protects the old structure. It was the negotiation of working and living with the old and new.’

AJ Small Projects Exhibition

An exhibition of the shortlisted projects is being held at Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, 20 Tottenham Street, London W1T 4RG until 26 April. Open Monday to Friday, 9am-5.30pm, free entry.


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Readers' comments (1)

  • joseph b fitzgerald

    What about the Allied Society of the R I B A the RSUA and who has given the President role of the R I B A Alan Jones Please some publicity about the architecture
    Joe FitzGerald FRIBA

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