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Latest two homes revealed on House of the Year shortlist

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Tonkin Liu’s Ness Point in Kent, and Birds Portchmouth Russum’s 6 Wood Lane in London are the latest two projects shortlisted for the 2017 RIBA House of the Year

The schemes join two other projects announced last week: Caring Wood in Kent, by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell, and Shawm House in Northumberland, by MawsonKerr Architects.

Tonkin Liu’s 439m² Ness Point is described by the firm as ‘grown out of the dramatic landscape of the white cliffs of Dover’, with each room ‘characterised by its own spectacular view’, while Birds Portchmouth Russum’s self-build Wood Lane is a four-storey home, which the practice said ‘maximises the potential of the narrow site’. 

The shortlistings were announced during the second of a four-part Channel 4 series Grand Designs: House of the Year.

Houses on the seven-strong shortlist will be revealed each week on the programme, whittled down from a longlist of 20, which includes homes by Carmody Groarke, Coffey Architects, Lisa Shell Architects, Ann Nisbet, Sandy Rendel Architects, Ström Architects, and Chris Dyson Architects.

The RIBA House of the Year is described by the institute as ‘the UK’s most prestigious award for a new house or extension’. Last year it was won by Richard Murphy’s own house in Edinburgh, which RIBA president Jane Duncan described as ‘part jigsaw puzzle and part Wallace and Gromit’. Other past winners include Skene Catling de la Peña for Flint House (2015), Loyn & Co for Stormy Castle (2014), and Carl Turner Architects for Slip House (2013).

The winner of this year’s award will be aired in the final episode of Grand Designs: House of the Year on Tuesday 28 November.

Part 2: RIBA House of the Year shortlist

Ness Point by Tonkin Liu 

Ness point 1429 nick guttridge pressimage 1

Ness point 1429 nick guttridge pressimage 1

Source: Nick Guttridge

Ness Point by Tonkin Liu

Judges’ citation

Ness Point has been designed as if it had grown out of the land in which it is embedded. With undulating thick walls along its length, it hunkers into the hill and is at one with the dramatic landscape of the White Cliffs of Dover. It goes further than respecting its setting, to really speaking of ‘place’.

The plan of the house, whilst modest in scale, very much describes a journey as you move through each floor with framed views which pull the landscape into the house. The orthogonal central walls serve as dividers for the various functions of the ground floor but do not meet the undulating external wall, so that you are able to weave through the series of rooms and there is the feeling of skirting along the side of a cliff face. There is an extremely sophisticated manipulation of space, whereby your eye is constantly pulled from one space to the next but each space nevertheless holds on to its own clear identity. As you reach the end of this spatial sequence and turn the corner (as in the prow of a ship), there is a space you can shelter from the weather (sea mist on the day we visited) that appears carved out of the rear of the plan.

Upstairs, the plan continues as an enfilade suite of bedrooms. Each room is orientated towards a different aspect of the landscape, across the passing ships of the English Channel to the cliffs known as Ness Point. The spaces are modest, the plan tight and every inch is put to good use. This house has been designed from the inside out. The driver is the emphasis on the interior activity and how each space is occupied. Each bedroom has a balcony no wider than half a metre, which gives a miniature, personalised garden to each bedroom. The interior detailing is beautiful and meticulous. This project benefits from a very successful collaboration between architect and interior designer which is much more than the sum of its parts. The interior catches the dynamism of the day’s changing light so that the building becomes a part of the larger canvas of ever-changing coastal weather. On the day we visited, when the site was shrouded in coastal mist, the play of light throughout the interior was very subtle.

This house is very difficult to photograph well by virtue of the aperspectival space with numerous vanishing points and the undulating plan. The interior delighted the jury and surprised us more than any of the other houses which were much truer to their photographs. This house pushes the idea of ‘organic functionalism’ – as you move through the plan you discover everywhere new space relations, shifting axes and carefully-considered interruptions that lead the eye into another direction.

6 Wood Lane by Birds Portchmouth Russum

6 wood lane 1355 magdalena pietrzyk pressimage 3

6 wood lane 1355 magdalena pietrzyk pressimage 3

Source: Magdalena Pietrzyk

6 Wood Lane by Birds Portchmouth Russum

Judges’ citation

Six Wood Lane is an exuberant and well-loved home, carefully crafted by its owners as a self-build project over more than seven years. Its idiosyncratic style connects each design aspect; from its curving form hovering above the street, to the detail of a chain-operated rooflight.

The architect’s ambition was to create a home for urban living, which contrasts tightly planned functional spaces with generous living spaces to maximise daylight and views. The building achieves this spatial contrast: a small entrance, tiny bathrooms and boat-like staircases, uncurl into connected living spaces, with views between areas in the house and out into the garden.

A slim store beneath the entrance seat perfectly sized for tennis racquets; a luminous green interior to the post box; a curved blue desk for making sculpture; a yellow floor beneath a quirky, zig-zag, glazed winter garden dome and a functional shed hidden in a cosy garden come together to create a surprising house that will engage and provoke debate for its occupants and visitors.

Part 1: RIBA House of the Year shortlist

Caring Wood by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell

Caring wood 1156 james morris pressimage 5

Caring Wood by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell

Source: James Morris

Caring Wood by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell

Judges’ citation

This unique house seeks to re-envisage the traditional ‘English country house’ in the 21st century to meet the needs of three generations of the same family. The jury was impressed with how Macdonald Wright and Maxwell had manipulated space and scale to balance the need for grandeur with intimacy – from the soaring spaces of the piano nobile to the living spaces partially embedded in the hillside below. As a result, the two architects have designed a house of over 1,400m² which nevertheless feels like a home.

The house is modern but has clear links to the Kentish rural vernacular and local building traditions. Externally, the form of the house uses the traditional oast house as a form generator, which would have been used for kilning hops as part of the brewing process. On entering, there is a framed view of a traditional oast in the distance. The house comprises four towers with an interlinking roof and these are sentry points in the landscape with distinct personalities.

The jury was also impressed with the quality of the build, the level of craftsmanship and the rigour of the pared-back palette of materials employed throughout. It is a composition of locally sourced handmade peg clay tiles, locally quarried ragstone and locally coppiced chestnut cladding. It is a rich, warm palette which ties the house to the Kent countryside and speaks of ‘place’. The towers together with the interlinking roof are clad solely in clay tiles, which the architect describes as a ‘tablecloth being draped over the terrain’. The simplicity of this visual device is very effective and the attention to detail in the way the roof is peeled away in places to acknowledge window soffits or other openings is exemplary. Internally, acoustics and manipulation of daylight are carefully considered.

The extensive landscaping surrounding the house is still in its infancy, yet there is already evidence as to how this will help to seamlessly connect the house to its setting, a year or two from now. It provides a carbon neutral response to climate change. The form of the building was developed around a central courtyard with oast towers providing summer cooling by passive stack ventilation. Caring Wood’s sustainability is addressed through low energy design and the use of clean green technologies, and in the regional application of building form, material choices and detailing.

Shawm House by MawsonKerr Architects

Shawm house 1460 rob rhodes pressimage 1

Shawm House by MawsonKerr Architects

Source: Rob Rhodes

Shawm House by MawsonKerr Architects

Judges’ citation

It isn’t often that you visit a self-build or professionally procured house that is immaculately constructed, sensitively conceived and has heart and soul with which evokes an emotional connection.

Shawm house has a remarkable story. While living and working on the site, Richard Pender built the house to provide a more manageable home for his ageing parents. He has delivered a building that tells a story at every turn. You feel connected to the history of the Pender family, the historic farms and bastilles visible across the Northumbrian fells, and are provided with a wonderful series of carefully framed views of the rustic landscape.

Working in partnership with Dan Kerr, the project architect, Pender has developed from scratch an enviable understanding of construction methodology and technologies, new practical skills and an undeniably keen eye for detail. The building was constructed by Pender on site, in an existing barn where he structured a bespoke jig to enable him to create the building’s timber frame, before applying timber cladding to create a house that connects to immediate features such as an existing walled garden and also sits comfortably in the landscape context.

The project team has combined its knowledge of Passivhaus construction with an ethos for sustainable design, and aligned this approach to a strategy for using materials available on site and from local sources to conceive a truly sustainable, low-energy and low-impact proposition. The execution of this design is of the highest quality, the exceptional understanding of construction sequencing and co-ordination and tightness of details has led to an exceptional build quality delivered by hand.

Beyond the remarkable achievement of constructing this building with little support from professional contractors, Pender would not have been able to deliver the project without the practical knowledge and careful attention offered by the project architect, and the timely and thoughtful input from his parents. Kerr managed to retain an architectural vision whilst planning how Pender could build the structure himself while ensuring that his parents’ carefully considered needs were adequately accommodated. The level of consideration given to the construction process and interfaces between materials new and old is understated yet beautifully composed. Nothing is overstated, yet emphasis, legibility and clarity are given to each element with a balanced and pleasing weighting.

Shawm House will be a perfect home for Pender’s parents and is indeed one of Northumberland’s finest homes.

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