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Architects' own homes added to RIBA House of the Year shortlist

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The homes of Deborah Saunt and David Hills of DSDHA and Richard Murphy have been added to the list of schemes in the running for the 2016 RIBA House of the Year Award 

Richard Murphy’s contemporary home in Edinburgh’s UNESCO World Heritage site and a semi-underground home for architects Deborah Saunt and David Hills of DSDHA have been named as the latest finalists vying for the coveted prize. 

Despite winning a RIBA National Award Murphy’s scheme had previously failed to pick up a RIAS award. 

The shortlisted homes were revealed at the end of a special edition of Grand Designs which aired on Channel 4 tonight (1 December).

The episode also featured House 19 by Jestico + Whiles, Tsuruta Architects’ Stephen Lawrence Prize-winning House of Trace and Bennetts Associates’ house in Cumbria which were all longlisted for the prize.

The shortlist, which will be completed by another three finalists over the coming weeks, also includes Loyn & Co’s Stirling Prize-shortlisted Outhouse and a renovation of a Modernist house in Wiltshire by Coppin Dockray.

The overall winner is set to be announced on the Channel 4 programme on 15 December.

The judging panel for the award is chaired by Mole Architects’ Meredith Bowles and includes Joanthan Dallas of Dallas Pierce Quintero, Wallpaper architecture editor Elle Stathaki, Phil Thorn from sponsor Hiscox and Charlotte Skene Catling of Skene Catling de la Peña, which won last year’s award for its Flint House

The RIBA House of the Year Award replaced the institute’s long-established Manser Medal last year when the television series was introduced. The relaunched Manser Medal is now part of the British Homes Awards.

Last year the special Grand Designs show, fronted by Kevin McCloud saw the prize reach a greater audience than ever before with the first show attracting 2.2 million viewers. 

The shortlist so far… 

Covert House by DSDHA

Covert House by DSDHA

Covert House by DSDHA

Source: Christoffer Rudquist

As very busy architects Deborah Saunt and David Hills of DSDHA have had to wait a long time to design their own home – but the wait has been worthwhile. They have used it as a test-bed for their ideas on sustainability. Their experiments – carried out under restrictive Conservation Area planning conditions – resulted in an unorthodox, semi-underground house that challenges what it means to design a contemporary domestic space. 

The two-storey house is a simple composition of two interlocked white cubes, which is entirely shielded from street view. The planners limited to a single-storey height so DSDHA had to half bury the house. The exterior presents itself as a low-rise, lightweight architectural piece of architecture, clad in white render, with chamfered mirror reveals. The house also has to follow strict rules to reduce overlooking from neighbouring gardens: it has a stepped roof line in section so it is lower close to garden boundaries, from which it is set back clear from on all sides. 

Covert House is indeed a case study on the potential for unlocking backland sites and creating architectural opportunities that subtly densify our residential areas and respond to the urban necessity of building more houses close to the city centre. Allowing for more well designed houses to be built in existing private backland sites may also be a way for people to develop the assets they own and live in, while also releasing some of their equity. 

This is an exquisitely crafted home, with every detail and material carefully thought through; a beautiful space that is immediately calming and exciting. The exposed in-situ concrete interior gives the project a unique identity; whilst evidently structural it is also delicate, beautifully detailed and finely executed. The mirror façade softens the edges of the building and allows it to sit playfully within the surrounding garden context.

The site strategy is a brilliant response to planning issues, providing a model for sensitive densification, and achieving a very good-looking house.

Covert house

Covert house

Murphy House by Richard Murphy Architects

Murphy House by Richard Murphy Architects

Murphy House by Richard Murphy Architects

Source: Keith Hunter

This project is a rare example of construction of a contemporary house within the World Heritage Site of the New Town of Edinburgh. It is a house designed by Richard Murphy for his own use and is consequently something of an architectural and environmental experiment. There are a number of agendas at work. 

Firstly, with a modest floor area of 165 m2 on a footprint of only 11 metre x 6 metre, (formerly half of a garden to an apartment on Forth Street), it nevertheless contains three bedrooms, a living/dining/kitchen area at varying levels, study, basement storage, garage, utility room and roof terrace. 

Secondly, it is an essay in how contemporary design might contribute to a historic and particular place in the New Town, in this instance an unresolved junction of two streets. The adjacent gable end should not have been exposed and the house deliberately responded by becoming a “bookend” to it, with its front façade continuing the stonework pattern of the street façade. 

Thirdly, the house had to preserve the privacy and sky views from the adjacent apartment and this contributed to the bookend section. 

Fourthly, there is a very strong energy agenda in the new house. The roof consists of photovoltaic cells and substantial south-facing glazing. Underneath this are mechanised insulated shutters allowing the glass to generate heat when open but preventing it radiating heat when closed. A computerised internal air circulation system takes warm air from the top of the house to the basement via a gravel rock store to produce a delayed heat source for evening use. The main heating source for the house is a 150 metres deep ground source borehole connecting to a heat exchanger which feeds under-floor heating. All the major windows to the house have insulated shutters. Rainwater which follows a course of pools and waterfalls on the roof terrace finds it way to grey-water storage tanks in the basement and is then used to flush toilets and supply a sprinkler system. Heat is extracted from the flue of a log burning stove to pre-heat hot water. 

A final agenda is the many architectural influences at work. Not least is the work of Carlo Scarpa, on whom Richard Murphy is an authority. The roof terrace is a homage to the garden of the Querini Stampalia in Venice using the same exposed aggregate walls and sourcing tiles from Scarpa’s original manufacturer in Venice. Internally, the Venetian “stucco lucido” coloured plasterwork is used extensively. The Sir John Soane Museum and the Maison de Verre are also great influences in the use of illusion and moving elements. Reitveld’s Schroder house makes an appearance in a “disappearing corner” stone panel opening, designed to be the same proportions as his famous window.

Richard murphy

Richard murphy

Ansty Plum by Coppin Dockray 

Ansty Plum by Coppin Dockray

Ansty Plum by Coppin Dockray

Source: Rachael Smith

Judges’ citation 

Ansty Plum is a very special 20th-century house, resurrected for viable modern living without damaging the spirit or the fabric of the original. In the house, what has been taken away and what has not been added is as important as what has been rescued or retained.

The building is now perhaps as close to its original form as at any time in its subsequent development, and the removal of limited but unhappy accruals, such as an en-suite shower room on the first-floor platform were essential in resetting the balance of the space.

Careful thought has led to a building that is discreetly and successfully heated, lit, insulated and serviced, leaving the classic period interior intact and the house’s future assured. One could debate the change in atmosphere created by replacing the original brick floor to allow underfloor heating and service improvements, but the use of stock paving slabs surface-ground down to the aggregate is a clever and pleasing intervention that sits well in context. The house is modest, and the viability initiative sensibly and sensitively looked elsewhere for ancillary accommodation.

The stone shell of the dilapidated Smithson-designed studio adjacent to the house was inhabited to provide an accommodation annexe featuring bedroom, shower room and storage sub-space, sitting above a garage and store on the steeply sloping site. The apparent collapsed state of the building could perhaps have led to a slightly bolder – that is a less reverent – architecture, but the rebuild is fastidiously faithful to the spirit of the original while adding considerable comfort and some delight.

The space is lined with timber of a delicious hue to create an almost nostalgic atmosphere. Great care has been applied in detail throughout; a frameless and seamless door hung on a brass piano hinge opens to reveal a glass-backed shower room overlooking a fern-lined embankment in a typical example. This is an intimate gem of a space which complements the initiatives undertaken in the main house, as a skilfully crafted small project.

Outhouse by Loyn & Co 

Outhouse by Loyn & Co

Outhouse by Loyn & Co

Source: Charles Hosea

Judges’ citation 

Outhouse is located on a fabulous sloping plot in the Forest of Dean, running beside Offa’s Dyke, with long views to the Wye Valley and Severn Estuary. The design exploits the site potential to the full with a discreet design that beds into the site literally and metaphorically, finely balancing respect to context with confident architectural expression.

The simplicity of the house, which was undoubtedly hard-won, is founded on rigour and restraint. This is a house with a field on top – not an ‘architectural’ green roof but a proper field, punctured with light wells that creatures are having to learn to avoid. It is a concrete house where the concrete feels warm and luxurious, and a considered and crafted palette of surfaces form a backdrop for the artist-owners’ own refined art and furniture.

The design eloquently and effortlessly tackles many familiar issues; the blurred relationship between interior and exterior space, the penetration of light into a deep single-aspect plan, the control of sustainability without flaunting it.

The key architectural device is a rigorous plan organisation separating studio and working spaces on the uphill side and glass-fronted living spaces on the downhill side to take advantage of spectacular views. The building’s backbone is a linear circulation space driven through the plan perpendicular to the site slope, with the front door at one end and Wales at the other. The entrance is a Modernist set-piece with a covered approach flanked by a black pigmented concrete pavilion and a simple solid open stair running through a rectangular puncture in the roof plane. Channelled views through the glass door reveal the spine, active as a gallery space opens to and illuminated by the living space on the downslope side. Fleeting glimpses of the retired owner’s traversing the house on micro-scooters confirmed the very definite feeling that we wanted to enter.

To misquote Renee Zellweger in Jerry Maguire: ‘they had us at “Hello’’.’

Video:

Outhouse by Loyn & Co

outhouse quote

outhouse quote

 

 

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