A new house in a conservation area in Ealing, West London, has been judged the best one-off house in the UK designed by an architect for a private client. The house is at 52 Mountfield Road, London W5, and was designed by Burd Haward Marston Architects for retired BBC television producer John Brooke and his wife, artist Carol Coombes. The architects receive the Manser Medal 2002, an annual award sponsored by the Royal Institute of British Architects and Planahome magazine.
The Brooke-Coombes house is an eye-opener for anyone who thinks that a new house in a conservation area should ape the neighbouring houses, for this is an unashamedly modern house, arrived at after a long period of consultation with 14 different firms of architects, most of whom proposed a traditional new house. Eventually the clients were introduced to Burd Haward Marston by mutual friends. The architects asked if they would consider a contemporary design, and over a period of six months the final design was arrived at by what John Brooke describes as 'an absolutely logical process.'
Remarkably, it was the architects' first building project, Buddy Haward having left Michael Hopkins and Partners to start his own practice with his wife Catherine Burd (who had been working for van Heyningen & Haward) and another young architect, Lucy Marston (previously with Allford Hall Monaghan Morris).
Their 'logical' design is a steel-framed three-bedroom detached house with a small garden at the back and front, and off-street parking for two cars. The house is clad in Italian terracotta tiles, but the whole of the upper floor has large areas of glazing on all sides, which makes the mono-pitch roof appear to float over the building. There is also a narrow shallow pond on all sides of the house, which makes it appear to be floating on water.
The house has an internal courtyard, which is a two-storey glass-roofed conservatory, full of plants, and a popular sitting-out area for the owners. There is also a conventional sitting room, divided from a dining room by a contemporary fireplace in the middle of the room. The stairs and landing are made of galvanised steel, but there are large areas of limestone flooring in the courtyard and the kitchen.
To most people's surprise, there were no objections from the local planning authority. As for the neighbours, John Brooke says they have all been very kind and people are always dropping in to ask if they can look over the house. During London Open House last year, 600 people visited the house.
The judges for this year's Manser Medal were Paul Hyett (President of the RIBA), Michael Manser (a past-president of the RIBA), Tony Chapman (head of awards at the RIBA), David Birkbeck of Architects in Housing, and Michael Hanson, editor of Planahome magazine. They also commended a new house at 21 King's Road, Richmond, Surrey, designed by Robin Mallalieu of architects Brady & Mallalieu.
Named in honour of Michael Manser CBE RA, a distinguished past-president of the RIBA and chairman of the Manser Practice, the medal was commissioned by Planahome magazine to mark his chairmanship of the judging panel for the Britannia National HomeBuilder Design Awards. It was awarded for the first time in 2001 to Cezary M Bednarksi for 1A Merthyr Terrace, a modern house built on back land in a conservation area in Barnes, London SW13
The Manser Medal, designed by sculptor and calligrapher John Shaw, will be presented to Burd Haward Marston Architects (together with a magnum of champagne) at a lunch at the London Marriott Hotel, Grosvenor Square, on Friday, May 3, 2002. The winning house, the commendation and eight more houses shortlisted by the judges will be described and illustrated in Planahome 2002, to be published in June, together with the results of this year's Britannia National HomeBuilder Design Awards.