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RIBA House of the Year 2018: first homes on shortlist revealed

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Red House by 31/44 Architects in south London and Pheasants by Sarah Griffiths + Amin Taha in Oxfordshire are the first of seven projects to be shortlisted for the 2018 RIBA House of the Year 

The shortlisted projects were announced during the first of a four-part Channel 4 series Grand Designs: House of the Year.

The 130m² Red House, a three-storey contemporary home built on an awkward site on a Victorian terrace was praised by the judges for being ‘justly confident of its place in the street’.

Meanwhile, Sarah Griffiths + Amin Taha’s Thames-side project, which took a decade to complete, won praise for its ‘uplifting’ design as well the architects’ perseverance in their ‘titanic struggle to win permission’. 

Houses on the seven-strong shortlist will be revealed each week on the programme, whittled down from a longlist of 20, including homes by Tonkin Liu, 6a Architects, Family and Open Practice Architecture.

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 the award was won by Caring Wood in Kent, a collaborative project by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell, described by RIBA president Ben Derbyshire as a ‘house built for multiple generations’.

Other past winners include Richard Murphy’s own home in Edinburgh (2016), 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 Wednesday 28 November.

Pheasants by Sarah Griffiths + Amin Taha

Pheasants 2274 tim soar pressimage 3 (1)

Pheasants 2274 tim soar pressimage 3 (1)

Judges’ citation

For this project, the ideas of convention and compromise do not exist. It has taken more than a decade from inception to completion, it has been a titanic struggle to win permission and get the thing built, but there is no evidence that anything at any scale has ever been downgraded or any difficulty sidestepped.

And the design, which has taken so much time and effort to realise, is extraordinary in its challenge to convention. The site beside the Thames is spacious and south-facing; the diagram for the building could easily be a simple arrangement of lawns to the river, living spaces facing south, servant spaces on the north, driveway etc.

Here though, the diagram is very different - and all the richer and more rewarding for it. The approach to the house is by foot; there is no generous parking forecourt, just a small parking area by the entrance.

Then there is a straight path which first passes a Cor-ten steel ancillary pavilion and then an over-sized reflecting pool, before tucking into the house, confronting a small top-lit court, and finally turning sideways into the living space.

This pattern of movement through major and minor spaces with promenades and pauses continues through the house itself, overturning assumptions about how spaces should be disposed and what they should address. And yet it all works beautifully and the house is clearly a comfort and joy to the clients.

The striking front elevation is a literal one-liner, an S-shaped line of concrete that seems to defy gravity as it hangs over the glass and perforated Corten steel ribbon around the ground floor spaces.

One might imagine that the interior would be servant to the exterior conceit. Not so. Inside is an unexpected pleasure – full of top-light, dramatic panoramic views and finely crafted features.

This house is an extraordinary achievement both by the clients and by the architects. The design takes cues from history in its use of water, its axial sidesteps and the relationship between house and outhouse. Then it radically reframes these ideas in a wholly new and unique manner: it’s uncompromising and uplifting.

Red House by 31/44 Architects

3144 1401 red house 01 modernhouse

3144 1401 red house 01 modernhouse

Judges’ citation 

A new-build home which is an assertive piece of architecture, justly confident of its place in the street without being disrespectful, and sharing something of the spirit, solidity, and decoration of the Victorian surroundings without veering towards any kind of artificiality.

The scheme matches the size, scale and character of the surrounding two-storey dwellings, while providing a 137m² split-level three-storey contemporary home. The site the architects had to work with was awkward in shape and levels and they had to deal with the challenge of privacy and avoiding overlooking neighbours. Yet they have excelled in dealing with each using the position of the chimney and location.

As the end of the terrace, the site is an unusual shape with an imposed kink in the road and angled flank of the adjacent house. The architects have inventively carved into the space a series of intimately angled living spaces sprinkled with small glazed courtyards, drawing light and ventilation deep into the low-level kitchen, dining and living spaces.

This ‘pushed and pulled’ series of visually connected spaces resolves the complex geometrical challenge creating a homely space.

A timber stair, which greets you at the entrance and stretches the length of the home, is detailed with shadow gaps and vertical lines of cladding helping light travel down the building. Painted white this spine of a stair connects the whole house as a single building. The entrance hall has a large window with enough space for coats, bags and shoes. Storage in the living space is carefully hidden away.

Bedrooms and bathrooms are a good size, light and decoration kept simple, giving occupants a blank canvas to develop as they wish. The red brick used on the façade matches the highlight brick in the existing terrace, and the patterned precast pigmented concrete panel above the front door echoes the decorative brick patterns on the terraced street. The facade is fun and crafted.

The material selection is tactile, elegant and warm perfectly coordinated with the design as a whole. The client was supportive and encouraging of the architects. The architects answered their brief and the house is now occupied by clients who love the home.

The architects have produced an exquisite crafted home that responds elegantly to its context providing delight to its users as well as to the surrounding area.

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