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RIBA House of the Year: Off-grid Highlands home takes top prize

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A ’truly breathtaking’ self-sufficient hideaway in the West Highlands, designed by Haysom Ward Miller Architects, has been named RIBA House of the Year 2018

The 195m² timber-built Lochside House saw off six other contenders in the finale of Channel 4’s Grand Designs: House of the Year series broadcast last night (28 November).

Comprising three burnt-larch clad buildings ‘huddled together’ on the edge of a Scottish lake, the home for a ceramic artist is entirely ‘off-grid’ with all its energy coming from the sun and its water supply pulled up from a borehole.

RIBA president, Ben Derbyshire, said: ‘Lochside House is truly breathtaking. By containing its scale, sensitively positioning the crop of buildings on a promontory around established trees, and making use of local materials, Haysom Ward Miller has created a home which perfectly responds to its exposed, unique location.

‘With a highly sustainable, off-grid approach to energy and water, it leaves the surrounding environment as undisturbed as possible. Every detail has been fine-tuned to create an exceptional home and studio that meets the needs and wishes of its artist owner. Lochside House is the perfect addition to this dream landscape.’

The scheme’s architect, Tom Miller of Haysom Ward Miller, said: ‘To build a good, energy-efficient house here wasn’t straightforward. It was only possible because we had a client with the uncompromising determination and vision to keep pushing us to achieve our best, and a contractor’s team for whom we have enormous respect. They seemed to thrive on the unique challenges posed by building on such an exposed and inaccessible site.

‘The fact that it was such a pleasure to work on is testament to the dedication of everyone who contributed.’

A RIBA National Award winner and a finalist for the Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland award, the house was picked ahead of schemes by Liddicoat & Goldhill, 31/44 Architects, 6a architects, Tonkin Liu, and Chance de Silva and Scanner (see below).

Liddicoat & Goldhill’s £782,000 Makers House in east London became the seventh house to be shortlisted for the annual accolade during last night’s show.

Last year the award was won by Caring Wood in Kent, a collaborative project by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell. 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).

Winning scheme and full shortlist

WINNER: Lochside House by Haysom Ward Miller Architects

3 lochside house haysomwardmiller architect (c) richard fraser

Lochside house by Haysom Ward Miller Architects - RIBA House of the Year 2018 finalist

Judges’ citation – chair of the 2018 RIBA House of the Year jury, architect Takero Shimazaki

We chose Lochside House because of its extraordinary client-architect relationship, which resulted in an exceptional house that has a rich conversation with the natural environment.

It is astonishing that the remoteness and challenging weather did not prevent the client’s vision being achieved. The architect’s off-grid solution seems almost effortless.

The architect’s off-grid solution seems almost effortless

Inside, the spaces merge with the artist owner’s art collection, and there is an overwhelming sense of comfort, warmth and homeliness. Lochside House is a well-designed home that is an example of humble, grounded, contextual yet powerful architecture that people can aspire to and be inspired by.

Finalist: VEX by Chance de Silva and Scanner

Vex 2227 hélène binet  pressimage 2

VEX by Chance de Silva & Scanner - RIBA House of the Year 2018 finalist

Judges’ citation

Neighbours of a small site used mainly for fly-tipping suggested to the architect, Chance de Silva, that it could be transformed into a private house. A corner site on a residential street has now become an experiment in architecture and sound. The music Vexations by Erik Satie, a potentially endless loop of notes, was the starting point for the collaboration between the architect and the sound artist Scanner.

The resulting curved form reduces the volume of the building from the street and allows it to be pulled forward in front of the building line, taking advantage of the views. It celebrates the honesty of exposed materials where you can see the ‘making’ of the components both inside and outside the building. Each floor has a separate fluid shape and size and is stacked at a different angle, allowing clever use of the views. The texture of the curved, fluted concrete created by using boat-like formwork adds to the rawness of the exterior.

The layout provides flexible living and workspaces. A tranquil interior with curved walls and staircases throughout and the internal organisation is well thought out. Particularly delightful is the living/dining/kitchen area on the second floor with simple wooden shelves and cupboards complemented by metal screens and fittings, all purpose built. A circular rooflight illuminates the pale yellow kitchen work surfaces and sink complementing the grey floors.

There is a bedroom and shower room on the ground floor, which could be converted into a separate studio. The first floor has two curved bedrooms connected by a shared bathroom. Each has different shaped windows and rooflights created by the overlapping floors. Lastly, the roof terrace is an oval wood-screened private space, sitting on a green roof and has space for a conservatory, a place for quiet contemplation.

VEX is a unique house created through cultural collaboration, which lovingly uses honest materials and with handcrafted elements throughout. The architect has taken an experimental approach to the project, which took eight years to complete, and the result is uplifting.

Finalist: Old Shed New House by Tonkin Liu

Old shed new house 2425 alex peacock pressimage 4

Judges’ citation

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.’

Finalist: Coastal House by 6a architects

Coastal house 2713 johan dehlin pressimage 4

Coastal house 2713 johan dehlin pressimage 4

Judges’ citation

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.

Finalist: Pheasants by Sarah Griffiths + Amin Taha

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 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.

Finalist: Red House by 31/44 Architects

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.

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.

Finalist: The Makers House by Liddicoat & Goldhill

The makers house 2334 simon watson for house & garden pressimage 3

The Makers House by Liddicoat & Goldhill - RIBA House of the Year 2018 finalist

Judges’ citation

This new-build one-off house was initiated by the practice as a speculative development. It sits in a terrace of semi-detached villas replacing the previous one/ two-storey building.

Arranged over four levels, the upper two storeys are bedrooms while the ground floor is a split-level living space. At street level is a sitting area while a short flight of steps takes you down to a taller space containing kitchen and dining further opening onto a backyard. There is also a basement ‘den’ space and utility room.

Throughout the scheme there is a very high level of inventiveness in the bespoke detailing. These are not in any way the ‘generic solutions’ that you would normally get with a property developer. The architect described the design process as a testing ground for the office and, through trial and error, it has significantly elevated the experience of this home.

This is especially true of the main living space, almost nothing here is treated ‘normally’, which gives a very special feeling to the room. Reveal treatments, exposed joists, very special handrail treatments – netting! – all come together very successfully.

Externally the building sits well in its context. It is polite to its neighbours without being deferential. The overhanging roofs are inspired by the neighbours, but extended and played out into an aesthetic of layering which the architects described as a continuation of the ‘workshop’ idea of the interior. The sloping roof is generated by a rights-of-light issue but is well incorporated into the whole and does not feel like a compromise. 

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Readers' comments (2)

  • IC

    Beside a lake!?....'Loch'side house...

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  • Fantastic! Slightly the best of a very good year, and all well presented by Grand Design?

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