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RIBA Stephen Lawrence Prize 2017 winner revealed

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Mole Architects’ The Houseboat in Dorset, designed in collaboration with Rebecca Granger, has been announced as the winner of this year’s RIBA Stephen Lawrence Prize 

The nautically themed guesthouse was revealed as the winner of the £5,000 award, which recognises the UK’s best projects built for less than £1 million, at the RIBA Stirling Prize party held at the Roundhouse in north London tonight [31 October].

Judges described the award as a ‘great expression’ of ’inspired concepts, experimentation and finely tuned craftsmanship’, adding: ’The true joy of this house is one that can only be experienced’. 

Read the AJ building study on Mole Architects’ Houseboat

Stephen Lawrence Prize 2017: Houseboat by Mole Architects and Rebecca Granger Architects

The 221m² project, wrapped in black-stained larch, was built for architect-turned-developer Roger Zogolovitch in Poole Harbour at a cost of £745,000 - or £3,370 per m².

Winning the award, Mole’s Meredith Bowles commented: ‘It’s been seven years of hard slog, but it’s all been worthwhile.’

It beat five other shortlisted schemes, including a weathered steel-clad studio by McGarry-Moon and Invisible Studio’s Wolfson Tree Management Centre in Tetbury, built from timber grown on site. 

The other shortlisted buildings were Hyde + Hyde Architects’ Silver House in Swansea; BPN Architects’ refurbishment of a former textile factory in Birmingham; and Peacock House in Suffolk, by BHSF Architekten with Studio-P.

Founded in 1998, the annual prize was set up in memory of Stephen Lawrence, who had intended to become an architect before he was murdered in a racially motivated attack in 1993. Funded again by the Marco Goldschmied Foundation, the prize was open to buildings completed between November 2014 and February 2017. 

This year’s judging panel was made up of Baroness Lawrence of Clarendon; Doreen Lawrence, mother of Stephen Lawrence; Marco Goldschmied, RIBA past president and founder of the Marco Goldschmied Foundation; Stephanie Edwards, senior urban designer at Barton Willmore and a Stephen Lawrence Scholarship recipient; and Taro Tsuruta of Tsuruta Architects, which won the Stephen Lawrence prize last year. 

Goldschmied said: ’In an age where detail design and carefully crafted construction are all too often sacrificed to meet short term deadlines, the Houseboat is a welcome exception.

’Its split-level geometry and use of disparate materials and ad-hoc elements have been seamlessly assembled into a surprisingly harmonious and entertaining whole. A new house that feels like a lived-in home from the outset is a rare achievement.’

Previous winning practices include Duggan Morris (2012), Alison Brooks Architects (2006) and Cottrell & Vermeulen (2002). 


The Houseboat, Mole Architects

Stephen Lawrence Prize 2017: Houseboat by Mole Architects and Rebecca Granger Architects

Stephen Lawrence Prize 2017: Houseboat by Mole Architects and Rebecca Granger Architects

Source: Rory Gardiner

Stephen Lawrence Prize 2017 finalist: Houseboat by Mole Architects and Rebecca Granger Architects

Additional architect practice Rebecca Granger Architects
Completed July 2016
Client Undisclosed
Location Poole, Dorset
Internal area 220m²
Project value £745,000
Cost per m² £3,370
Contractor The Timber Frame Company 

Judges’ citation

The Houseboat is a great expression of context inspired concepts, experimentation and finely tuned craftsmanship.

The seaside retreat sits comfortably next to the owner’s other residence, known as The Boat House. This is a 1930’s modernist design, uniquely fitted out internally with second hand salvaged ship lounge joinery; and the skill of the architects behind The Houseboat lies in their refusal to challenge the existing building, but to reinterpret it by inverting the ‘Boat House’ into a ‘Houseboat’.

Its concept, inspired by its coastal context, flows seamlessly from aesthetics to experience. The prominent black stained timber larch exterior – built on a concrete base – clearly exemplifies two overturned hulls and echoes the sea to the front. This aesthetic subtly continues into the space of the master bedroom where the intersecting planar curves surprise and enhance the user experience by indirectly appearing to be within a hull below deck. This element is further emphasised as one ascends through the house to the point at which the curves meet a dramatic pinnacle, forming an intimate yet open living space.

Meticulous detailing and crafting permeates both internally and externally, from the grooves of the MDF wall lining, to the bespoke copper glazing on the rear façade which seeks to record the effects of weathering.

One of the client’s requirements was for split levels connecting living, eating and working spaces under one large roof profile, an environment suited to a holiday home. The single roof is lifted with the concrete inverted keel and a single volume space is achieved. The split levels are connected by three stairs of concrete, wood and steel finishes, which give each space a personal quality.

Multiple ideas are developed, distilled and precisely integrated throughout the house; ideas that have clearly developed through the successful relationship between the architect and client.

Ultimately, the true joy of this house is one that can only be experienced. An appreciation is only achieved once fully immersed within the space.

The other finalists

Silver House, Hyde + Hyde Architects

Stephen Lawrence 2017 finalist: Silver House by Hyde+Hyde

Stephen Lawrence 2017 finalist: Silver House by Hyde+Hyde

Source: David Schnabel

Completed December 2016
Client Undisclosed
Location Swansea
Contract value Undisclosed
Internal area 353m²
Cost per m²  Undisclosed
Contractor James Developments

Judges’ citation

This is a very elegant and thoughtful piece of architecture with great conceptual clarity. While it is rigorous in resolution, it retains an air of easiness and is wholly comfortable in its context.

As a family home, the accommodation is layered: dens in the basement, bedrooms on the ground floor and living room and master bedroom on the first floor. The architectural ordering follows the functions; the basement ‘cave’ is top-lit, the bedrooms are enclosed in concrete walls wrapped in a dry stone rainscreen, the living space is framed in timber and steel and opens to wonderful coastal views.

Externally the house has a strong horizontal emphasis. The stone plinth is carefully laid to reinforce the horizontal line. This is surmounted by a timber beam that supports the framed superstructure and extends beyond the building envelope to form a carport. 

The thoughtfulness and care invested in composing this building is echoed in the meticulous detailing, both inside and out. There is clarity, quality and an overall impression that all aspects of this house have been touched by talented minds. The client is, quite understandably, delighted.

The Compound, BPN Architects

Stephen Lawrence Prize 2017 finalist: The Compound, BPN Architects

Stephen Lawrence Prize 2017 finalist: The Compound, BPN Architects

Source: Tom Bird

Completed December 2014
Client Javelin Block
Location Birmingham
Contract value Undisclosed
Internal area 790m²
Cost per m² Undisclosed
Contractor Springworth 

Judges’ citation

How often does the architect’s client also act as a project designer? Not very often. Perhaps when developing a set for a filming company or a stage design for a theatre production. There is certainly an air of a theatre and cinematography in the Compound projects – a former textile factory turned into an art venue, a workshop and a client’s home.

The governing design principle is to bring old spaces back in use with minimal intervention by mixing original textures with modern elements and contemporary art. Following this principle, the external façade is left unchanged, even down to a hand-painted house number on the original door. A small doorway in the corner of a blank façade leads into a generous double-height space, day-lit from the top. 

The client is a collector of modern art and is an artist himself with a passion for finding old objects in scrap yards and upcycling them in most unpredictable ways. The project demonstrates a keen understanding and a lively interpretation of the history of the local area and its industrial heritage. It gets under the skin of making things and celebrates craftsmanship and a beauty of honest and purposeful spaces and objects.

Fallahogey Studio, McGarry Moon Architects

Stephen Lawrence 2017 finalist: Fallahogey Studio, McGarry Moon Architects

Stephen Lawrence 2017 finalist: Fallahogey Studio, McGarry Moon Architects

Source: Adam Currie

Completed January 2017
Client McGarry Moon Architects
Location Kilrea, Northern Ireland
Contract value £160,000
Internal area 150.00m²
Cost per m² £1,066.67
Contractor Alan Moon Joinery & Building Contractor

Judges’ citation

Fallahogey Studio is set within the garden of the architects’ award-winning house in the gently rolling countryside south of Kilrea, and is composed of a modestly scaled single form referencing and continuing the tradition of metal-skinned agricultural sheds, barns and outbuildings, which prevail throughout the local countryside. The programme required a studio space for their growing practice. 

At first, the building appears almost impenetrable, a casually shuttered concrete base with a simple weathered Cor-ten steel pitched roof and gabled form on top, the deep rust colour a familiar tone in the landscape. Once inside, a joyous series of bright, overlapping spaces is revealed.

There is a gentle play at work here, an endearing sense of fun barely masked by the authors, of heavy steel over the robust but delicate timber interior, carefully hand-made and reinforced by highly sustainable credentials.

This is a precisely crafted, confident and delightful building, which provides a series of beautiful spaces for its users, engages with its site and local context, and which clearly demonstrates the “can-do” attitude, enthusiasm and evident skill of its architects.

Peacock House, BHSF Architekten with Studio-P

Stephen Lawrence Prize 2017: Peacock House, BHSF Architekten with Studio-P

Stephen Lawrence Prize 2017 finalist: Peacock House, BHSF Architekten with Studio-P

Source: Benedikt Redmann

Stephen Lawrence Prize 2017 finalist: Peacock House, BHSF Architekten with Studio-P

Completed December 2016
Client Undisclosed
Location Aldeburgh, Suffolk
Contract value £948,597
Internal area 264.00m²
Cost per m² £3,593.17
Contractor Builders by Design 

Judges’ citation

This is a house that, with an opaque outside, conceals a series of wonderful internal and external spaces that are delightful and extraordinarily consistent in their detailing.

On arrival, very little is revealed other than the horizontal layering of materials, consisting of a flint base and timber-panelled middle, visually separated from a similarly panelled upper roofscape by a simple flashing detail. These datum levels serve as a constant reference point, help create vistas and play with perspective against terraces and floors that rise over the depth of the site. 

The arrangement of three building blocks is extremely simple, consisting of main living spaces, study and a studio. These all have consistent and immaculate detailing, using a restrained set of materials. The interior finishes are mostly plastered with the hanging rail creating the datum line around the house, off which is hung the owner’s collection of art. 

Particular attention has been given to the overall layout and roofscape to avoid disrupting views from neighbouring properties and the sedum roofs add to the overall calmness and subtlety of the project.

The house is an accomplished work of architecture, whose overall simplicity in plan, elevation and detail belies an intriguing complexity in both internal and external spaces.

Wolfson Tree Management Centre, Invisible Studio

Stephen Lawrence Prize 2017 finalist: Wolfson Tree Management Centre, Invisible Studio

Stephen Lawrence Prize 2017 finalist: Wolfson Tree Management Centre, Invisible Studio

Source: Piers Taylor

Completed April 2016
Client Forestry Commission
Location Tetbury, Gloucestershire
Contract value £328,000
Internal area 700m²
Cost per m² £468.57
Contractor Carpenter Oak & Woodland/Perchard & Co

Judges’ citation

Wolfson Tree Management Centre is formed of two timber buildings – the machine shed and the mess room for communal staff facilities – at the National Arboretum in Gloucestershire, built by volunteers and trainee carpenters under architect and client supervision. The arboretum is owned and managed by the Forestry Commission with an internationally recognised collection of over 15,000 trees.

The engineering objective for the building was to efficiently use timber from the arboretum; with all processing taking place on site, minimising transport and processing costs. The timber was hand-hewn by volunteers on site, graded on site, and used in an untreated and unprocessed way. 

Seven hand-made giant trusses form the roof structure of the machine shed, the bottom string of each truss is fashioned from a single tree, its natural curvature utilised for optimum structural efficiency. These trusses allow for a column free space essential for the easy manoeuvring of tractors and equipment. 

Designed to a tight budget, these buildings demonstrate that with the right design approach, locally sourced materials can be used to reduce the environmental impact of the built environment, as well as reducing the construction costs.

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