From Palladio’s Villa Capra to Frank Lloyd Wright’s Fallingwater, the one-off house has given countless architects the chance to explore and develop their art. We asked past Manser Medal-winners to tell us about the houses that most influenced them
Studio Bednarski (2001 winner for Merthyr Terrace)
Casa Natale di Raffaello, Urbino
While Farnsworth House, where I was filmed two years ago for Dream Homes, is a tempting choice, it is not really a ‘house’. Scanning my memories it is Casa di Raffaello in Urbino, which I visited in 1986, that still stands out. Humans have inertia when in motion and we cannot do sharp turns: not many designers think about this. Moving through this house felt so fluid, smooth and natural that I still find it unbeatable, and while relatively sparse it felt homely. But maybe it all was just the enduring aura of the young Raphael…
Burd Haward Marston Architects (2002 winner Brooke for Coombes House)
Traditional Amsterdam canal house
A very hard choice. If pushed, I would say the traditional Amsterdam canal house, for hundreds of reasons, architectural and personal. Not strictly one-offs (though most of them are), I love their squeezed frontages which give brilliant urban density. Their brickwork, fenestration and expressive gables are at once completely individual and part of a whole. Their generous, uncurtained windows allow the streets to extend into the homes, and vice versa. This blurring of private to public continues to the street itself, where there are no pavements, raised kerbs or yellow lines, just a change in material.
Jamie Fobert Architects (2003 winner for Anderson House)
In 1926 Ludwig Wittgenstein abandoned his work in philosophy to help Paul Engelmann design a house for his sister in Vienna. Haus Wittgenstein on the Kundmanngasse has played an important role in my thinking since I first saw it in 1993. Its restrained and austere exterior conceals a rich volumetric interior, both tectonic and clearly based on proportions with an extraordinary wealth of detail.
Mole Architects (2004 winner for Black House)
Mackintosh’s Hill House, the Eames House
Two greats have remained with me since I was a teenager, but I have visited neither of them, so they remain as much an idea as a place to live; Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Hill House, and Charles and Ray Eames’ Pacific Palisades. Between the two they still capture my interest in making a house that has a sense of place, tand the thrill of a house that defies convention. Of houses I’ve visited or stayed in, Glenn Murcutt’s Simpson-Lee house is spectacular; it’s a house that is designed perfectly for its environment, and is a thrilling space. Meredith Bowles
Robert Dye Associates (2005 winner for Stealth House)
Hanselmann House, Indiana
This was reportedly the first commission for Michael Graves and in my opinion never bettered by him. During the New York Five’s neo-Corbusian period, the move into a Terragni-esque 3D grid of space caught my imagination as a young student in the early 1970s. There is a clear narrative to this project involving an eventual natural landscape outside, a virtual front cubic volume and even a column that is missing but rationally should be there – my first understanding of what an architectural metaphor might be.
Knox Bhavan Architects (2006 winner for Holly Barn)
Fisher House, Hatboro
A place still to see is Louis Kahn’s Fisher House for its simple yet dynamic plan, exquisite use of materials, detailing and subtle decoration (pictured left and above). Natural materials touch one another gracefully to create an elegance and depth of texture. A place I have known and explored all my life is Hodges Place, a Grade-II listed 17th-century Kentish farmhouse that was first my grandfather’s, and is now my mother’s. The old house is made from ship’s timbers; dark, secret and intriguing, it hinges around a wide spiralling timber stair concealed behind a door.
Alison Brooks Architects (2007 winner for Salt House)
Mies van der Rohe unbuilt country house
I was about 17 when I first saw the plan for Mies van der Rohe’s unbuilt brick country house and the idea that walls could be ‘freed’ from a building had a huge impact on me. I thought the merging of architecture and landscape was incredibly exciting, but was disappointed by the three dimensional expression of the plan. Marcel Breuer brought a humanising quality to Mies’ Modernist paradigm; the Geller House (1945), Robinson House (1947) and Hooper House (1947) all share the enigmatic ‘free’ plan and spatial continuum, while being more spatially experimental than Miesian contemporaries.
Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (2008 winner for Oxley Woods)
The Eames House, Pacific Palisades
I’ve always been inspired by the Eames House and the legacy set by the Case Study House programme. The Eames House is a truly great example of architecture that celebrates factory production and the use of manufactured processes. In particular, I love the fact that it was designed through a series of phone calls. This legacy of using prefabricated components is reflected in contemporary architecture in the UK through projects such as the Rogers House in Wimbledon and the Hopkins House in Hampstead. Andrew Partridge
Pitman Tozer Architects (2009 winner for The Gap House)
Azuma House, Osaka
I lived in Kobe, Japan for a year and spent most weekends searching out buildings by Tadao Ando and other Japanese architects. Despite numerous efforts, I never found this house and know it only through drawings and images. The building is on a tiny plot and is deceptively simple. It’s an inward looking, two-storey, courtyard house, with just a doorway onto the street four rooms that gain light and air from the fifth. I admire Ando’s ability to convince his client that walking from the living room, outside, to get to the bedroom was a good idea.
Acme (2010 winner Hunsett Mill)
Villa Müller, Prague
As a student, I spent a year analysing how private houses can be defined as spaces of privacy and exposure, unfolding through movement. The most interesting and influential house in my research catalogue was Villa Müller by Adolf Loos. The longer you look, the more you learn. You can take away that incredibly complex composition of spaces that sit in a deceptively simple architectural volume. Neither Villa Müller nor Loos is faultless, and many other houses have been influential on our thinking and work, but this is one we come back to quite often.
Our favourite houses, as selected by Manser Medal winners