Coastal House by 6a architects and Old Shed New House by Tonkin Liu have become the latest projects to be added to the shortlist for the 2018 RIBA House of the Year award
The two new contenders were unveiled in the second of a four-part Channel 4 series, Grand Designs: House of the Year, which aired last night (14 November).
They join previously announced finalists Red House by 31/44 Architects in south London and Pheasants, a house in Oxfordshire by Sarah Griffiths + Amin Taha, in the contest to win the accolade of the nation’s best new home.
Tonkin Liu’s conversion of an old farm shed in North Yorkshire into ’a beautifully crafted and sustainable home for its retired owners’ was recently named winner of the RIBA Stephen Lawrence Prize (see AJ 10.10.2018).
Meanwhile, 6a’s ‘elegant reinvention’ of a 20th century house on the South Devon coast picked up an RIBA National Award earlier this year.
Houses on the seven-strong shortlist are being revealed in pairs each week on the programme, having been whittled down from an original longlist of 20.
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 previous winners include Richard Murphy’s own home in Edinburgh (2016), Skene Catling de la Peña’s Flint House (2015), Loyn & Co’s Stormy Castle (2014), and Carl Turner Architects’ Slip House (2013).
The winner of this year’s award will be revealed in the final episode of Grand Designs: House of the Year on Wednesday, 28 November.
Shortlist so far
Old Shed New House by Tonkin Liu
The clients had spent several years looking for a quiet site to build their retirement home, before they found a farm shed located in a wild garden, on the edge of a small village in North Yorkshire.
Discovering the site with their son Greg, now an associate at Tonkin Lui, they sought to pull the landscape into the building’s form. A long, double-height gallery maintains the tree-lined approach and a tall library, bounded by mirror-backed shelving evokes the copse of silver birch found of the site. Walking into the library through a sliding door from the living room brought gasps from the Awards Jury. It is the heart of the home and a showpiece for a lifetime’s collection of books. Clever use of light and mirrors gave the impression of an art piece itself. Otherwise it Is a modest, three-bedroom house, built cost-effectively, but with exquisite detailing inside and out.
The house follows a Passivhaus strategy of high insulation, high air-tightness, complemented by mechanical ventilation with heat recovery. Timber louvres are neatly integrated into the design of the timber cladding to limit solar gain in the south-facing library. Larch cladding of various widths has been shot-blasted and stained white between galvanised steel fins to offer a rhythmic façade that reads like the bark of the silver birches. Galvanised steel continues inside with a delicate mezzanine and bridge of only 80mm structural depth.
The colour scheme of subtle grey tones, concrete screed floor and white-shaded timber seems to effortlessly complement the art collection in every room. As the architects say: ‘The house is a journey of interconnected spaces that alternate between the grand and the intimate […] it is part-country cottage, part-classical villa.’
Coastal House by 6a architects
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The transformation of this early 20th century house close to the South Devon coastal path is breathtaking in its elegant restraint. Having explored options for complete reconstruction, the retention of much of the original structure, wrapped in an external insulating ‘duvet’ and faced in reclaimed slate, has resulted in a house which feels rooted in place, rich in history, but also in contemporary detail and delight.
The exterior gives few clues to the extent of the reinvention – an elegant oak framed veranda and the curious ovoids, which punctuate the deep lead fascia are the only immediate indications of what lies within.
The scheme respects and reinvents the original house to create a timeless and beautifully made new home
The interior has been reinvented by the removal of one of the four original chimney stacks. New openings are framed in board-marked in situ concrete and a winding timber stair rises through the central three storey, top-lit atrium creating a series of balconies and terraces to an extraordinary interior landscape. Walls are generally painted, coursed rubble. A silken maple handrail on raking oak balusters winds around the central space. At ground level, the floor has been dropped to connect inside and out, elongating existing windows and creating a grand scale for the more public rooms. A cross-axis at the centre of the plan aligns with views out in every direction, framing the stunning coastal views and shorter aspects into an inner courtyard.
Externally, Dan Pearson has created a series of landscapes which mediate from rolling clifftop to walled gardens – his terrace on which the new veranda rests comprises shallow, honed slate steps with riven risers.
This project has emerged from several years of dialogue between client and architect, and a brave change in direction well into the design process. The scheme both respects and reinvents the original house to create a timeless and beautifully made new home.
Pheasants by Sarah Griffiths + Amin Taha
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 been downgraded nor any difficulty side-stepped.
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 Cor-ten 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
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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.
At 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 co-ordinated 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.