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L-shaped Versailles mansion wins 2012 Manser Medal

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France’s Maison L by Christian Pottgiesser of architectures possibles has won this year’s Manser Medal

The large residential addition to an 18th Century orangery near Versailles beat four other shortlisted houses all in rural settings to win the high profile prize for the best newly designed private house.

This year’s defeated contenders were Jarmund Vigsnaes Architects’ and Mole Architects’ Dune House in Thorpeness, Ladlecombe in Gloucestershire by Found Associates, Old Bearhurst by Duggan Morris and two passive solar gain houses in Cornwall by Simon Conder Associates.

RIBA president Angela Brady said: ‘Maison L is a stunningly original house that creatively responds to the needs of its household – here everyone has their own private bedroom tower, but can come together in the most dramatic cave-like family rooms.

‘The modern extension is sensitive to the 18th Century orangery it extends and to the mature French landscape in which it sits. The courage of the family and the ingenuity of the architect combine to create the most exceptional project. This is no ordinary home.’

Features a series of interconnecting half-buried rooms, Maison L is arranged in a plan which incorporates five, three-storey flat-roofed concrete bedroom and bathroom towers – one for each of the four children plus their parents.

Pottgiesser picked up the trophy designed by the artist Petr Weigl at the Stirling Prize award ceremony this evening (13 October) in Manchester hosted by BBC Radio 4’s Mark Lawson.

This year’s judges included architect Michael Manser, arts patron Jill Ritblat architect Stuart Piercy and RIBA head of awards, Tony Chapman.

Last year’s Manser trophy went to Duggan Morris’ Hampstead Lane refurbishment. The same practice won this year’s Stephen Lawrence Prize for its King’s Grove private house in Peckham, south east London.

RIBA citation: Maison L by Christian Pottgiesser, Architecturespossibles

On an undulating site of a former château, close to Versaille is a restored orangery whose origins can be traced to the late 18th century. Home to a couple with four children, the architect Christian Pottgiesser was called upon to extend it. The brief required an extension that affected the views from the orangery, and the mature landscape in which it is set, as little as possible. The result is a little bit of San Gimignano in this corner of the Île de France.

The local building code sets an eight metre height limit. Since the orangery itself is seven, the architect has buried two metres of the linking building under the sloping site. The code also calls for a gabled, or hipped, roof but it does allow, in exceptional cases, flat roofs as long as they do not exceed 25 square metres.

Five three-storeyed tower-like structures were designed, one room per floor with the circulation winding up through them to provide dressing/storage, bathroom and bedroom. One tower is exclusively for the children. The parents’ tower is topped with a planted a roof terrace with great views across the garden and the skyscrapers of La Défense district of Paris.

AJ Buildings Library

See images and drawings of Maison L by Christian Pottgiesser, Architecturespossibles


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