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Carl Turner's translucent Brixton home wins 2013 Manser Medal

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Slip House, the translucent glass house in Brixton designed by Carl Turner Architects has won this year’s prize for the ‘best house in the UK’

The ‘urban sanctuary’ in south London saw off four other shortlisted homes (see below), including Witherford Watson Mann’s Stirling Prize contender Astley Castle, to win the 2013 RIBA Manser Medal.

Made up of three boxes sitting on top of one another, the architect’s own home was described by the judges as a ‘simple and sculptural addition to a street of Victorian terraced houses’.

The judges’ citation reads: ‘Slip House demonstrates an admirable commitment to the creation of an exemplary low-energy house, with a suite of sustainable enhancements that are integrated effectively into the building design. However, at no point do the sustainable ambitions of the project crowd out or dominate the refined quality of the spaces that are created. 

‘Little wonder then the project was one of Kevin McCloud’s favourite “Grand Designs”, one he described as an “urban sanctuary”.’


The 2013 Manser Medal judges were: Michael Manser; Hugh Broughton, architect; former winner Joe Morris of Duggan Morris Architects; Caroline Cole, architect; and Tony Chapman, the RIBA’s head of awards.

The announcement was made tonight (26 September) at the RIBA Stirling Prize party in London.

Previous winners of the RIBA Manser Medal include architecturepossibles for Maison L, France (2012); Duggan Morris Architects for a modern conversion of a brutalist house in Hampstead (2011), Acme for Hunsett Mill (2010), Pitman Tozer Architects for The Gap House (2009), Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners for Oxley Woods (2008) and Alison Brooks Architects for the Salt House (2007).

Slip House, London by Carl Turner Architects. Photography by Tim Crocker

Occupying one of four plots forming a gap in a typical Brixton terrace, Slip House constitutes a new prototype for adaptable terraced housing.

We set out with a simple sculptural form of three cantilevered (or slipped) boxes, the uppermost sheathed by a translucent glass screen. This upper box houses the main living space and connects to a ‘sky garden’. The middle box houses sleeping and bathing, with the ground box given over to a multi-purpose space, currently housing our studio.

The boxes are carefully placed to maximise light and outlook from inside while not intruding on our neighbour’s outlook. The shifting planes also break up the bulk of the building and give it its unique quality. It is designed to function in the short term as a detached house, but will no doubt one day be subsumed into a terrace when the adjoining plots are built over.


This arrangement allows flexibility for future adaptation and uses. Living and working (‘living over the shop’) is something that really interests us. We see a prototype new ‘terraced’ house, squeezed into under-utilised city (brownfield) sites. This flexible type of home can allow for the artisan or home-worker to sub-let or downsize. This can enliven local communities and produce ‘homes’ which create opportunities rather than being dormitories or financial assets. Slip House is flexible and can be used as a single home, studio workspace and apartment, or two apartments.

Designed to Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5, it features ‘energy piles’ utilising a solar-assisted ground-source heat pump, creating a thermal store beneath the building. PV-Ts, a wildflower roof, rainwater harvesting, reduced water consumption, mechanical ventilation with heat recovery within an airtight envelope, and massive levels of insulation, make this house extremely energy efficient. A prototype brownfield development offering dense, flexible, urban living - the house is a vehicle for in-house research into sustainable design, integrating the often conflicting aesthetic requirements of architecture and alternative low-energy systems. We are working to develop this model for multiple developments and as affordable housing.

  • Carl Turner, director, Carl Turner Architects

Judges’ citation

This elegant and confident project is a prototype house composed of multiple standard elements. Yet the executed design is a highly personal solution, which results in a humane interior environment. A standardised and semi-industrial material palette is employed throughout. Inside and out this house is immaculate in its detail, coordination and execution.

The project demonstrates an admirable commitment to the creation of an exemplar low-energy house, with a suite of sustainable enhancements that are integrated effectively into the building design. Solar thermal panels are linked to the ground-source heat pump to increase efficiency, utilising multiple piled foundations. But at no point do the sustainable ambitions of the project crowd out or dominate the refined quality of the spaces that are created.

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