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Sutherland Hussey Harris housing scheme wins 2015 Doolan Prize

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The ‘uncompromisingly contemporary’ West Burn Lane housing scheme by Sutherland Hussey Harris has been named the best new building in Scotland

The project in St Andrews was chosen as the ‘clear winner’ of this year’s RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award. It was selected from a shortlist of 12 projects including Reiach and Hall’s Stirling Prize-shortlisted Maggie’s Lanarkshire.

Billed as ‘the UK’s Richest Architecture Prize’, the Doolan Award offers a £25,000 cash prize to its victors.

Sutherland Hussey Harris’ courtyard housing development features two house types which alternate down a narrow street and provide private garden spaces within the development.

Judges said the scheme had been ‘expertly woven’ into the area and despite its modern aesthetic ‘acknowledged the historic street pattern and scale of its special context’.

Presenting the award at a ceremony held at the National Museum of Scotland tonight (4 November), Scottish cabinet secretary for culture and external affairs Fiona Hyslop said: ‘Once again, both the worthy winner and the strength of this year’s shortlist for the RIAS Andrew Doolan Award have shown that the quality of Scotland’s new architecture stands shoulder to shoulder with the best in the world.

‘In both our contemporary architecture and our built heritage, the RIAS has a great richness upon which to draw for its Festival of Architecture during the Year of Innovation, Architecture and Design in 2016. The Scottish government is pleased to support both of these initiatives to celebrate and promote Scottish design excellence.’

Two schemes – Page\Park and Elder and Cannon’s Laurieston Transformational Area and the Arcadia Nursery in Edinburgh by Malcolm Fraser Architects – also received special mentions.

Chaired by RIAS president Willie Watt, the judging panel included Scottish civic activist Barbara Kelly, Peter McIlhenny of LDN Architects, and Margaret Richards, winner of last year’s RIAS Lifetime Achievement Award.

Commenting on the winning scheme, Watt said: ‘Year on year the shortlist for this award, all winners of RIAS Awards, demonstrates the superb quality of contemporary Scottish architecture.

‘The work of architects can be transformative, not simply of places, but of people’s lives. This shortlist testifies to that, and the worthy winner is a great building of the current era, which will hopefully contribute to a more enlightened approach to our historic townscapes. Well done all the architects and particular plaudits to the superb winning scheme.’

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Judges’ citation

This is a commercial residential development in a very particular location, where potential purchasers demanded spaces and finishes of an extremely high standard. This has been achieved. The (former architect) client worked closely alongside his architects at every stage.

Expertly woven into the existing fabric of St Andrews, although uncompromisingly contemporary, the development acknowledges the historic street pattern and scale of its special context. The external materials palette is limited and of extremely high quality. While the built fabric in the vicinity is predominantly structural stone, the use of a warm Continental brick with narrow courses is appropriate and welcoming.

A variety of different house types, some with integral garaging, punctuate the long front elevation on West Burn Lane. Careful shifts in level and depth along both front and rear elevations of the development add interest, while emphasising the scale of the separate homes which come together in this virtuoso work of urban renewal.

Internal finishes are appropriately ‘high end’ with generous plans, taking maximum advantage of views. Both externally and internally, the detailing is meticulous and the development is full of interest. The client and the local planning authority are well worthy of praise for creating a fine, 21st century, housing development, wholly appropriate to the place and the needs of owners.

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Project description: West Burn Lane by Sutherland Hussey Harris

West Burn Lane is located in a conservation area in the historic centre of St Andrews and consists of six four-bedroom houses and eight two-to-three-bedroom apartments.

The buildings are organised as discrete volumes, which address a series of public and private urban courtyards. They mediate between the tight-knit Medieval urban grain and the scale of the surrounding university buildings and church hall, increasing in scale towards the south.

Taking cues from the historic rigg pattern of St Andrews, the buildings are tiered as the move down the lane; clear pends are maintained between which give sight to the sky and vegetation beyond and pick up the rhythm of doorways and thresholds in the historic stone walls of the Riggs.

By alternating between two main house types within the narrow confines of the lane, the broad-fronted but narrow-depth and the narrow-fronted but deep plan, we were able to provide secluded private garden spaces between dwellings that have aspect to the south-east.

At the southern end of the site where the lane opens up there is a larger scale building in keeping with the grander and more spacious context, where the apartments take advantage of the panoramic views to the south.

Located between these elements are two maisonette blocks. These are set back to create a new piece of public realm around a mature tree, a courtyard offering amenity space and off-street parking but with enough room to the rear to allow for small courtyard gardens.

There are seven house types being proposed within these three broad typologies. From north to south these are:

Town House Type 1: Three-storey, four-bedroom, narrow street-fronted and deep plan townhouse with a dedicated single-car garage and single car port at grade, a rear garden to the east and a roof terrace on the third floor.

Town House Type 2: Three-storey, four-bedroom, wide street-fronted and narrow depth townhouse with a dedicated two-car garage at grade and a rear garden to the east.

Maisonettes: Three-storey building with one three-bedroom maisonette at levels 0 and 1, with private garden to rear, and one two-bedroom upper maisonette at levels 1 and 2 with a private terrace.

Apartments: Four-storey apartment building consisting of a unit per storey. At Level 0 there is a two-bed apartment with its own separate entrance, accessed from Queen’s Terrace, via a small private garden facing south. Apartments on Level 1, 2 and 3 are accessed via a communal stair entered via Westburn Lane. Level 1 and Level 2 both have three-bedroom apartments while the third floor is for a two-bedroom penthouse apartment with large outdoor terrace facing south.

A total number of 14 units was achieved on-site, which exceeded the requirements set in the challenging brief from the client. Sutherland Hussey Harris was selected through an invited competition organised by developer Eastacre Investments.

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