The best new homes in the UK competing for the RIBA Manser Medal: longlist revealed

The longlist for the UK’s foremost private housing design award have been revealed today (Thursday 19 June) by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

23 stunning homes form the 2014 longlist for the RIBA Manser Medal, in association with Hiscox, for the best new house or major extension in the UK.

Highlights from across England, Wales, Scotland and Northern Ireland include:   

  • Farningham House Cottage by Emrys Architects - the subtle unification, though the use of glazed corridor forms, of a traditional cottage with outhouse and stable block in the picturesque Kent village of Farningham
  • High Edge by Evans Vettori - a contemporary take on the Swiss chalet, overlooking the River Derwent in England's ‘Little Switzerland’
  • House No 7 by Denizen Works - the restoration and utilitarian agricultural-inspired extension of a listed Tiree black-house that hunkers down to provide a light, bright, welcoming and cosy home on the exposed Isle of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides
  • The Kench by MELOY Architects - a modest beach house with commanding views on Hayling Island in Hampshire, which appears to float above the existing ground levels to avoid flooding risk
  • Lens House by Alison Brooks Architects - the restoration and contemporary extension of a Victorian villa in north London - invisible from the street but when viewed from the garden looks like ‘an otherworldly masterpiece’
  • Loughloughan Barn by McGarry-Moon Architects - a modernised barn loyal to its pastoral surrounds, made of stone, timber, glass and zinc, in County Antrim with views of Slemish Mountain
  • Stormy Castle by Loyn & Co Architects - a modern castle in a stunning Gower peninsula-setting
  • Tree House by 6a Architects -an elegant extension wrapping around a tree in the garden of a grade II listed 1830s brick weavers’ cottage in east London
  • Westering by Annie Martin Architect - a comforting cedar and granite clad bling-less home in the dramatic surroundings of Dartmoor National Park
  • Wildfowl Cottage by 5th Studio - a brave rescue of a listed waterside inn in Cambridge that includes an innovative new response to flood risk

The full RIBA Manser Medal 2014 longlist is:


  1. Lens House by Alison Brooks Architects
  2. Luker House by Jamie Forbert Architects
  3. Tree House by 6a Architects 
  4. Woodblock House by dRMM Architects

 East Midlands

  1. High Edge by Evans Vettori
  2. Quarn House by Simon Foote Architects


  1. New Barn by Rural Office for Architecture
  2. Stormy Castle by Loyn & Co. Architects

 North East England

  1. Treetops by Howarth Litchfield Partnership

 East of England

  1. The Arboretum by Cowper Griffith
  2. Broombank by SOUP Architects
  3. Private House by James Gorst Architects
  4. Wildfowl Cottage by 5th Studio


  1. Underbank House by Prue Chiles Architects

 South of England

  1. The Kench by MELOY Architects

 South East England

  1. Chalk Ridge by SCD Architects
  2. Farningham House Cottage by Emrys Architect
  3. Red Bridge House by Smerin Architects
  4. Wedge House by SOUP Architects

 South West England

  1. Westering by Annie Martin Architect

 Northern Ireland

  1. Loughloughan Barn by McGarry-Moon Architects


  1. Cliff House by Dualchas Architects
  2. House No.7 by Denizen Works   

 RIBA President Stephen Hodder said:

”The 2014 RIBA Manser Medal longlist reveals the most innovative, sustainable and beautiful new homes to have been completed in the past year. The exciting line-up is a testimony to the wonderful talent and achievements of some of the UK’s best architects.”

This year’s judges are Honorary President of Hiscox, Robert Hiscox, Michael Manser CBE, Lady Patty Hopkins and Carl Turner, the 2013 recipient of the Manser Medal and Tony Chapman, RIBA Head of Awards.  

The RIBA Manser Medal is sponsored by specialist insurer Hiscox.  


Notes to editors

  1. RIBA press contact: Howard Crosskey, or 020 7307 3761
  2. Press images for each home can be downloaded here:
  3. For access to the architects and clients on selected Manser Medal longlist projects please contact Howard Crosskey. 
  4. The RIBA Manser Medal is awarded every year to the best new house designed by an architect in the UK. It was created in 2001 to celebrate excellence in housing design and was named to honour Michael Manser CBE, a designer of exceptional homes and former RIBA President. Previous winners include Carl Turner Architects for Slip House (2013), Acme for Hunsett Mill (2010) and Alison Brooks Architects for the Salt House (2007)
  5. For more information on the medal visit:
  6. The shortlist for the 2014 Manser Medal will be announced on Thursday 4 September.
  7. The winner of the RIBA Manser Medal will be announced at the RIBA Stirling Prize ceremony on Thursday 16 October.
  8. Hiscox, the international specialist insurer, is headquartered in Bermuda and listed on the London Stock Exchange (LSE:HSX). There are three main underwriting divisions in the Group - Hiscox London Market, Hiscox Re and Hiscox Retail (which includes Hiscox UK and Europe, Hiscox Guernsey, Hiscox USA and subsidiary brand, DirectAsia). Hiscox underwrites internationally traded, bigger ticket business and reinsurance through Hiscox Re and Hiscox London Market. Through its retail businesses in the UK, Europe and the US Hiscox offers a range of specialist insurance for professionals and business customers, as well as homeowners.  For further information visit
  9. Hiscox UK’s affinity partnerships team creates long term commercial relationships with leading brands.  Through our relationship with the RIBA, we are able to offer members a 10% discount on their home insurance or office insurance which can also include cover for architectural models (subject to terms and conditions)  – call 0844 248 1644 or visit
  10. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) champions better buildings, communities and the environment through architecture and our members. Visit and follow us on Twitter.
  11. The judges citations and image links for each building follow:


Luker House, Jamie Fobert Architects

This beautiful house is an essay in how to transform a totally unpromising site into something poetic and memorable. Sited in backlands with the prospect of new development overlooking the site, the design makes a benefit of developing a one-sided relationship to a sequence of external spaces. It is difficult to evoke the quality of visual refinement within this building. Wherever you look there are combinations of planes, surfaces and light of unusual quality. A huge horizontal opening connects the kitchen and dining room to the garden, the whole window opening and disappearing against the adjacent wall. The plan and section have an unexpected geometry, a kind of stretching out of forms and shapes that plays games with the orthogonal.

The house is for a services engineer who played a part in the construction process, installing all the services himself with the assistance of his wife.  The client acted as project manager and the architect came to site whenever wanted. They both speak of a very happy relationship and there is no doubt that the client is delighted with the outcome.  Everything is finished to an exceptionally high standard with inventive details round the kitchen, including a beautiful stainless steel work table. The policy to keep family heirloom furniture, rather than finding new modern pieces, pays off in setting up a contrast between refined modern space and more sculpted traditional furniture.

There is a self-build aspect to this project which means that it will continue to develop over time, with an additional live or work unit and a bedroom still to be fitted out. However, what has been built stands entirely by itself as a distinguished architectural proposition.  The garden is also evolving with a water feature in process of installation.  With its simple brick exterior, refined windows, concrete and timber floors, concrete and plaster walls, the whole project is expressive of care and craftsmanship throughout.


Tree House, 6a Architects

This sensitive and subtle little building elegantly extends a Grade II listed house, so its occupant, who has become increasingly immobile and wheelchair bound, can live independently in her home as an integral member of her family, with her husband and their daughters; and can continue actively to enjoy her garden.

Their home consisted of two small 1830s brick weavers' cottages which were linked together in the 1970s. The two ground floors were at different levels and these were half a storey and more above a narrow back garden, to which they were linked via a veranda on chunky concrete columns, the legacy of a previous owner. The garden which was overgrown and full of flowers focused on a sumac tree and was informally linked to those of neighbours.

This new single storey extension makes all the public rooms and principal bedroom accessible and effectively re-orientates the focus of the house. A ramp within the frame of the veranda connects the two ground floor levels, providing access between the kitchen and living room. Within the new addition, a ramp curves around the tree in the garden, down to a new bedroom and a washroom.  The former  has the quality of a delightful  and  very  private  summer   house,  which  opens  up  onto  a  terrace  which overlooks the garden and back to and through  the original house.

The new building is timber frame on timber foundations and is clad in reclaimed Jarrah skimmings. Internally it is all painted white and simply detailed. Its exposed timber joists inevitably have quirky corners to accommodate the curves and the minimum headroom feasible, where the building abuts the neighbour's garden. These, combined with the softwood lining and plywood floors, give the building a gentle and charming Shaker aesthetic.

The hypotheses of the Tree House are that everything should be reversible and infringe as minimally as possible on the listed buildings and that there should be a neighbourly use of shared gardens. Wherever   possible existing elements   have been kept and   reused, including   the oversized concrete columns supporting the veranda. The construction is of sustainably sourced softwood, with substantial insulation and double-glazed windows. External cladding is reclaimed Jarrah skimmings, recut and fitted in-situ. Heating is under floor and ventilation is natural.

This is a delightful building which has transformed this home, not only in making it accessible but also in embedding it in the garden, with a very simple and beautiful aesthetic.


WoodBlock House, dRMM Architects

This is a joyful, sensual house which is the product of a genuine collaboration between inventive architects and their imaginative artist clients. The building is almost totally made of timber, including its floors, walls and ceilings. This gives it an exceptional visceral quality; everywhere one can smell the wood and everything has a tactile handmade quality.

The brief was to create a studio, home and office for the artists Richard Woods and his partner; and their family. Woods required a printing workshop where his work can be manufactured. This is on the ground floor, north facing and opening onto a yard, with excellent ventilation and access. Family living accommodation is arranged above; facing south and opening onto a large balcony, bedrooms and bathroom are on the floor above, with a tiny library-cum-office in an eyrie at the very top, with a very special view of the surrounding rooftops.

The whole is arranged in a form which correlates with the building lines of adjacent properties.  The new element is pulled away from one of the party walls, which on a practical level allows access to take big pieces of wood through to the yard and provides fire separation between  the stair access to the dwelling and the workshop, while also reflecting the fun, playfulness and imagination  which can be seen everywhere in this little  development.  This  route  through has  the  quality  of an  outside-inside found space, onto which upper windows open, providing a layered effect with the new timber building set against the lightly washed brick next door.

Woods's work crosses the boundaries between art, architecture and furniture design and he played a very active role in putting this building together, creating the colourful screen printing on elements inside and out.

The building is made of an expressed  cross- laminated  timber (CLT) panel structural system, which  was far  quicker  to construct  than  its equivalent  in brick or concrete would  have been and  it also has exceptional  sustainability credentials.  The architect points out that it is the only carbon positive method for long-span superstructures, since more carbon dioxide is absorbed through the lifetime of the trees' growth than is expended through the manufacture, delivery and installation.

The workshop and home were formed as two timber boxes, with the former clad in unpainted larch board and the latter in horizontal painted plywood. The studio has an under-floor heated ground slab while the wood house above is heated mainly through passive and active thermal solar gain and a single stove.

This delightful, joyful home and workshop are a true accomplishment by both client and architect, which will undoubtedly be a lovely place to live and work.


Lens House, Alison Brooks Architects

The project involved the remodelling and extension of a four storey semi­ detached Victorian Villa in the Canonbury Conservation area. The brief was to restore the derelict villa and extend it to create a family home and office space for its clients. The project has been realised in three phases over six years.

The design takes into account the constraints and challenges of working within a conservation area and the proximity of a TPO'd walnut tree. The architects devised a strategy where the house and the new extension create a modern adaptable home. The design incorporates a rich and engaging series of spaces relating to each other and to the garden and every element of the design is beautifully considered. Whilst all the main spaces are inherently aesthetically pleasing, they are also deeply practical and the detailing is a delight. The house has been upgraded throughout to meet with 21st Century building regulations and uses passive solar technology to enhance energy performance.

The extension to the house is virtually invisible from the street and when viewed from the garden appears as an object that could be from another planet. The innovative use of Corian as an external cladding material further emphasises this crystalline appearance. The geometry of the extension is a complex series of trapezoidal planes, the junctions throughout are precise and accurate and are a testament to the care and skill that has been lavished by the architects. The architects have transformed this wrecked Victorian house into a wonderful place to live and work; it is dramatic, light and welcoming, practical and well considered at every level.

This project, whilst modest in size, is highly ambitious in its design intentions, is a beautifully conceived and executed project and is testament to the client's determination to procure a project of real quality.


East Midlands

Quarn Lodge, Simon Foote Architects

Quorn Lodge is a Grade II listed former park-keeper’s lodge, which has been restored and extended to become a four-bedroom family house.

Clients and architect embraced the old and the new elements of the project with equal passion and the dwelling offers a convincing balance of architectural heritage and contemporary design. The distinction between existing and new accommodation is clear, both internally and externally and old and new form a playful composition.

The former lodge has been carefully refurbished and dominates the ‘public’ side of the house when approached from the road; the extension is discreetly placed on the ‘private’ side of the Lodge and is more prominent when seen from the garden and the public footpath through the adjoining Allestree Park.

The interior complements the small, intimate rooms of the lodge with a generous open plan kitchen, dining and living space at ground floor and a striking new staircase has been placed alongside the exposed brickwork of the previous side elevation of the lodge. On both floors the large windows of the new extension provide great views into the mature woodland.

The addition is bold yet respectful of the existing building and the use of matching bricks for the plinth of the extension in particular ensures both elements become one coherent dwelling. The challenge of extending the Grade II listed Lodge has been met with panache.


High Edge, Evans Vettori

High Edge is a new family dwelling built on a very steep hill site overlooking Matlock Bath and the River Derwent.

The project is an excellent example of how knowledge of local history can influence design and lead to inspiring architecture - the area was promoted as ‘Little Switzerland’ over a century ago and the idea of a contemporary Swiss chalet became the architectural ‘Leitmotif’ for the scheme.

The house sits effortlessly on the steep site and turns a challenging setting into a great asset. The Alpine concept results in an outward-facing gable under a prominent roof; the sloping ceiling can be experienced everywhere on the upper floor and provides an uplifting variety of individual, well-proportioned spaces.

High Edge sits comfortable in its surroundings and displays an impressive range of traditional and contemporary craftsmanship applied to materials sourced local and abroad. The design overcame numerous constraints during the planning and construction phases and yet all aspects of the project feel well considered and neither laboured nor compromised.

The stunning long views across the valley can be enjoyed throughout the house and the careful choices of materials, delicate details and an eclectic mix of fittings give the house an engaging and unique character. Numerous architectural gestures offer delightful surprises, for example an internal balcony overlooking the living area.



New Barn, Rural Office for Architecture

This is a replacement barn built in the grounds of the architect’s farmstead on the footprint of the previous structure. The design follows a rigorous approach to detailing and a disciplined grid layout for the portal frame which sets out the plan form. The barn’s structure is based on modular Parallam engineered timber frame which allows for future flexibility and even potential change of use. It is currently used as a temporary home until the existing farm house conversion is completed.

Externally the barn has a practical and restrained appearance with carefully detailed timber cladding and corrugated sheet roofing in complementary colours. The external design is carefully detailed, suggesting a modern interpretation of a barn, but without giving in to the temptation for parody. It has a pleasing symmetry, but this does not feel contrived, and the internal floor plan works well because of this constraint rather than despite it.

Internally the environment is quite austere, fitting in with the discipline and understatement of the exterior. A concrete floor, exposed dry lining boards and plywood are the main materials once again used to complement the compact rigour of the internal layout. A central core, containing the entrance lobby, bathroom and kitchen, separates two open areas to both ends of the barn. One of these is the living space and the other is subdivided into two small bedrooms opening out into a play area for the children.

Two ingenious Dutch tile stoves, located in each of these open areas, provide the heating for the barn. On average these need lighting only once a day during the cold season, and provide constant radiant heat, but also latent stored heat well after the fires have been extinguished. The majority of the materials on the building are local, and this was a self-build project, using friends and family for the construction.

The jury was impressed with the careful selection of materials, the integrity of the detailing, the rigour of the planning and the apparent simplicity of the concept, which belies the amount of careful design thought which obviously went into this project. 


Stormy Castle, Loyn & Co. Architects

Stormy Castle is a contemporary private house in an area of outstanding natural beauty on a hillside on the Gower peninsula.  The client, a local couple who know the area well, had always wanted to build something which reflected the quality of the surroundings and, conversely, made the most of the site in terms of views, landscape design and topography.

The resulting design is a tour de force in terms of space, natural light, level changes and connection to the landscape. The palette of materials is kept to a minimum – polished concrete floors flowing throughout, shuttered concrete walls, crystalline white ceilings, full height glazing to maximise the views and Corten steel accents to external doors, cladding and the roof of the retained barn.

Although the overall building is 725 square metres in area, much of it is cleverly hidden in the ground, emerging on three levels to make the most of the orientation and external landscape. The jury was impressed by the sustainability credentials, with a comprehensive range of energy, recycling and heating strategies incorporated into the design, which will be invaluable in dealing with such a large footprint.

By far the most striking element in the design is the quality of light which reaches deep into the interior. In many ways this is as much an art gallery as a home, with the areas in between the living ‘rooms’ inviting interventions – indeed the client is keen to explore this over time. The multi levels and interplay between inside and out create a range of private, intimate courtyards and more exposed external spaces which allow the building to connect, whatever the climate.

This is a brave design in an area of Wales where the more conservative, vernacular indigenous design solution usually holds sway. The jury was therefore delighted to see a contemporary design of quality win through and reward an ambitious client and architect.


North East England

Treetops, Howarth Litchfield Partnership

The Treetops is a classic small commission challenge for an architect with the twist of the architect designing the radical transformation of a house he and his wife were buying - with his wife as the client.

The project took a modest two storey detached house built in 1964 on a large, steeply sloping mature woodland suburban site and completely reinvented the building. The project reconfigured the existing accommodation, re-skinned it dramatically improving its appearance and thermal performance and extended it.

The works revealed and recreated the dual mono-pitch form of the original building and take and extend an original terrace and its columns as part of the roof form and solar shading of what appears as a wholly new building.

Over-cladding of the existing building with insulation and render together with new enlarged high performance windows, together with solar glass and high sun shelter from the roof overhang and natural stack ventilation produces a Code for Sustainable Home Level 5 performance of the fabric. Extensive ground source heating and PV panels will allow the house to become completely off-grid.

A modest budget has been applied carefully to produce some great living spaces. The project has exploited an attractive site and produced a building which sits well in its landscape and performs exceptionally well environmentally.


East England

Wildfowl Cottage, 5th Studio

This small project saves a listed house and provides an innovative response to flood risk, establishing a new model for this topical challenge. An extension to the refurbished house radically reinvents the conventional ‘lean-to’ to create a refuge from flooding whilst respecting the original character of the main house. An elevated extension is articulated from the house and provides not only a safe-haven from 100-year floods but a beautiful top-lit room with expansive horizontal views across the landscape. The relationships to landscape and to the adjacent house, are reinforced by an adaptable wall, natural light and ventilation, to create wonderful and deceptively rich space. 


Broombank, SOUP Architects

This house creates an extraordinary unfolding relationship to an expansive watery landscape with a very limited and controlled material palette of pale grey linear bricks, plaster and timber. The brick walls meander through and retain the banked landscape, offer a glimpse of the wetlands beyond. The timber-lined entrance hall leads the eye first up through a top-lit glass atrium roof and then out through the long glass wall to the distant view. The minimalist design belies the adaptability and liveability of the house: a large wooden sliding wall can separate the family room from the rest of the house, the glass sliding wall allows the house to open out to the landscape, folding shutters to the upstairs bedroom create a direct visual and acoustic link to the atrium and rest of the house. In the end, the careful geometric and material choices are augmented by an exemplary control of light and views.


Private House, James Gorst Architects

A deceptively simple and extraordinarily refined family home set in an inconspicuous lane of houses. Consisting of two brick boxes – one on the ground (the family room and kitchen) and another raised up (containing bedrooms over the living room) – the success of the scheme arises from the high quality of the brick and glass detailing and the dialogue that is set up between the two wings of the building. The parti of the design is directly related to the brief set by the clients, whereby the two components respond to the needs of the older and younger family members, whilst the visual and spatial connections encourage interactions across a courtyard. Of particular note is the brick detailing that lends a clarity and monolithic quality to the boxes, and the various window configurations that penetrate the boxes to create particular views and daylight ingress.


The Arboretum, Cowper Griffiths

This is a beautifully conceived and designed one-off house that responds carefully to context and environment, and resolves spatial and material juxtapositions with great skill. The elegance of the solution belies the challenges of the site, caught between protected woodlands and a flood plain in a historic village setting. Detailed research on the local use of materials led to informed choices of materials that reflect the composition of the building of a heavyweight flint and lightweight timber interlocking forms. The entrance sequence from lower ground entrance floor to upper level living room floor is modulated through material progression and manipulation of light and views. The attention to detail in the construction detailing and careful control of views whilst maintaining privacy is particularly impressive. This is an exceptional piece of architecture delivered by an outstanding practice, leading to awards for both building and architect of the year.



Underbank House, Prue Chiles Architects

This new building sits on the threshold between nature and artifice between landscape and building, between the intimacy of domestic life and the generously spirited ‘big outdoors’. The use of space and materials both reclaimed and reinforce the connection between the interior and the exterior of this modestly scaled structure.

Wanting to make the most of the steeply sloping topography of the site and capture the impressive views of the landscape beyond, the architects sought to create a space that links the house to the garden, in addition to improving winter access to the house for their retiree clients.

The original stone building is typical of the small cottage industries that characterised the textile industry of Holmfirth and the surrounding area. The project has created a highly insulated personal space, unique to the otherwise traditionally built 18th Century Cottage. The voluminous light filled spaces that the architects have created act as a counterpoint to the cozy low-ceilinged rooms of the existing building. The image of the new building is somewhere between a cabin and a cave, conceived as a rocky outcrop that has been hewn out of the rock and inhabited.

The material quality is at once sympathetic to the surroundings, satisfying the needs of the conservation area whilst creating a form that is confidently contemporary. The new building straddles the boundary between house and garden, its walls seemingly growing from the rock on which they are found, becoming part of the sequence of garden walls and cascading terraces that tumble down the hillside.

The roofs cape, seen from the main floors of the house, merges and compresses the distant moorland with the language of the architecture. Slabs of stone and heather offer literal connections to the mood and material quality of the landscape, with glass roof lights signifying dark reflective pools of water.

The walls are built from reclaimed dry stonewalling with deeply raked mortar joints that further reinforce the connection between the new building and existing garden structures. The stone envelope peels away on the south and west elevations framing distant views, taking advantage of their solar orientation. A pleasingly heavy timber pergola extends the language, materiality and syncopation of the curtain wall structure and will be planted with the client’s favourite wisteria, offering shade to the glazed south façade in the height of the summer. The project sought to create an entrance from the lower level directly into the new structure. This winter entrance has a wide, thick, solid oak door that gives access to a meticulously detailed lobby lined in timber, wrapping you in an atmosphere of warmth and isolation.

A new parking area has been formed at the lower end of the site with generous shallow steps and meandering gently sloping paths climbing up the hill. Close to the house a series of wide terraces lead to the new extension. Steep steps then lead up to the main entrance.


Southern England  

The Kench, MELOY architects

This beautifully detailed little summer house sets a new standard for construction quality and finish. The modest building has been carefully planned due to maximum floor space restrictions; the designer is forced to become more creative with their space saving solutions. It is a good example of how to make the best possible use of a limited area.

The rooms are arranged in a way that makes the most of the views over the Kench. This building sits very well in the setting of the other chalets and the landscape, and has become a popular addition to the site.

The attention to detail is exemplary, especially the tiling in the bathrooms, somehow resembling a 3D puzzle. The brief (which we understand arrived in a jiffy bag as a model) is executed perfectly, and this is reflected in the level of client satisfaction.


South East England

Farningham House Cottage, Emrys Architect

The client owned a traditional cottage with a detached outhouse and stable block.  The client sought a renovation which unified these disparate buildings into a single dwelling

The architect conceived the surgical insertion of a glazed corridor to connect these buildings. This glazed corridor slices neatly through the rear of the first outhouse which has been remodelled into a small double height guest room with mezzanine bathroom above the office.  The glazed corridor forms the edge to external courtyards on each side and extends to the stable block which includes an open plan kitchen, dining, and living area within the roof space.

This is a discreet and minimal intervention as well as superb restoration & exploitation of the outhouse and stable block.  I enjoyed the surgical 45 degree incision where the glass corridor meets the stable wall - to ensure the door aperture does not disrupt the symmetry of the timber stalls in the stable.   While the architect’s role was clearly vital in establishing the strategy it is unclear as to the extent of his role – certainly the clients carried out a huge amount of the restoration themselves with great love. 

This project appears a clever and minimal sleight of hand which unlocks a congested backyard - one is drawn to Whistler’s quip about having needed a lifetime to learn how to rattle off a quick sketch. Whoever did what it is clear that the result of the union of client and architect has resulted in a delightful and ingenious composition.


Chalk Ridge, SCD Architects

The clients sought a new 5 bedroom house in a pastoral outlying area of Guildford, which would be unostentatious to the roadside but open to enjoy the superb landscape beyond.  The procurement was a conventional contract.

The building presents a single storey to the road side and due to the natural slope is two storeys high on the garden side. The double height living level is at entrance level with a secretly accessed  mezzanine space above. The entrance hall and stair to below separates the seating area from the kitchen / dining. Below at garden level are the bedrooms with adults on one side of the stair and children the other.  All the spaces are conceived to enjoy the marvellous panoramic landscape

The accommodation strategy is simple and works well.  The form of the living area is gently curved and together with the pitched roof and curving ridge line this creates an interesting volume internally. The entry hall remains orthogonal with a flat roof to emphasize the wings either side. The bedroom level employs straight external stone walls with angled bay window projections to each room. The resulting composition works well on the garden elevation with subtle readings of the splayed bays against the straight stone wall and the curved ridge line beyond. Given the skill taken in developing the garden elevation it must be remarked that the entrance elevation is not particularly successful – it appears rather perfunctory and the use of a baked wood which cannot decay in any way suggests it may not necessarily age gracefully.

There are many commendable aspects to this design. The detailing was very good indeed and the building felt crafted. The choice to break the curvature of the plan in the entrance area appears has paid off well – it is a shame though that the pool did not observe this alignment - an integration of the house and pool would have elevated the site layout.


Wedge House, SOUP Architects

The clients sought a new 4 bedroom house set at the rear of their parent’s long garden within a suburb of Thames Ditton. The procurement was a conventional contract.

The building is primarily triangular in plan form and its edges are informed by immediate site boundaries and respecting a sight line formed by trees along the flank of the parents house.  The kitchen and utility galley are arranged in an orthogonal strip parallel to the site boundary.  The living area lines the garden façade. The entrance is set beneath a cantilevered first floor bedroom and accesses a triangular entrance hall   - the residual space between the living element and the galley utility area. This triangular hall enjoys a triangular rooflight and a straight flight of stairs leading to the first floor. The bedrooms are arrayed around the first floor.

The site strategy and subsequent geometry has created a clear concept ingeniously informing the formal development. The triangular hall economically and dynamically unifies the house. Sliding solid and glazed panels cleverly link or close spaces. There is a delightful and witty low level window in the cinema room.  Sliding glazed doors pass into the structure of the external wall to leave a large aperture with a theatrical billowing net curtain. The detailing throughout is intelligently minimal and reinforces the elegance of the strategy. Exterior finishes of western red cedar and dark grey render soften the whole presence

A very original house where the geometric concept is delivered with softness and restraint. The architect has delivered an extremely cost effective yet joyous modern house.


Red Bridge House, Smerin Architects

The client sought a new 4 bedroom house set in a pastoral glade. The procurement was a conventional contract - however the contractor became in financial difficulty and the client self managed the completion of the house.

The house employs a dramatically cantilevered box aligned with the primary view over a small pond and brook to the south. The northern entrance facade has a largely closed Cor-ten elevation through which a Cor-ten footbridge signals the entrance. The south elevation has an impressive double height timber faced and glazed loggia off the Living Level and defined by Stainless floor to roof ties accessed. Beneath this cantilevered form is a long internal swimming pool with fully glazed wall looking to the small brook beyond.

This is a tour de force of structural gymnastics and non-domestic ‘industrial ‘materials to create a very unique and well-appointed home. The house does little to deflect or defer to the pastoral glade in which it lies.

The Cor-ten façade and the triangular projecting bay (which provides attractive views to the garage glade ) is probably rather unnecessary and perhaps undermines the accomplished Cor-ten entrance footbridge. Equally the chamfered timber canopy above the triangular Cor-ten bay seems rather ineffectual for such a robust concept in form and materials. However these are very small reservations – it remains an extraordinary tour de force which reflects a compelling shared vision by both client and architect.


South West England

Westering, Annie Martin Architect

Set within the Dartmoor National Park, Westering is a modest three-bedroomed house for a newly retired couple, within the garden of their now too large former home. It is a shining example of what happens when a young architect, having cut her teeth in various practices here and abroad, and now working alone from home and raising two young children, gets a commission and gives it her all.

The house has a very simple and legible layout, with lower ground floor sunk into the sloping site on three sides providing south-facing bedroom spaces set back beneath an oversailing upper level, which appears as a single-storey house set beneath a zinc-clad pitched roof, providing open plan living space. Walls are clad in cedar and lower retaining structures (together with masonry fireplace) are in a local granite block.

The house feels almost like a 1960s design, with an optimism and simplicity that marries with down-to-earth detailing, avoiding the ‘look no hands’, vanity detailing of chic urban houses.

The clients are utterly delighted with their new home and keen to praise their architect. The husband, an engineer, has enjoyed working on the energy generation aspects, so much so, that the house runs in credit.


Northern Ireland

Loughloughan Barn, McGarry-Moon Architects Ltd

Built from rough-cut and locally found stone, these simple vernacular barn structures can be found dotted throughout the rural landscape of Northern Ireland.  The site for Loughloughan Barn in County Antrim overlooks a lush farming landscape with scenic views of Slemish Mountain.  The talented young practice of McGarry Moon Architects has maximised the potential of the barn and its setting with a simple and carefully detailed contemporary design.  The restrained palette of materials includes stone, timber, glass and zinc for the roof. Refined detailing allows these materials to be fully appreciated.

The internal layout has been configured so that the first floor living spaces and master bedroom can benefit from light and views, while the guest bedrooms and utility have been tucked into the lower level. The form and feel of the original barn has been maintained throughout, yet the interior space has been transformed into a light-filled contemporary space. The glazed corner of the living room daringly cantilevers out over the stone walls to create a viewing point. The living spaces flow effortlessly and provide a calm retreat from which to enjoy the real drama of this house: the ever-changing colours of the landscape below and skies above.



Cliff House, Isle of Skye, Dualchas Architects

Set on the edge of a steep escarpment, with its entrance elevation cut into the hillside itself, the house commands a panoramic view over Loch Dunvegan and distant views to the north east.

The open character of the main living room and kitchen space is one distinct volume. A short corridor connects the two bedrooms which enjoy the same full height fenestration and dramatic views. The bathrooms and service accommodation are contained in separate cubic volumes, alongside the entrance which is roughly central to the plan.

This new home is gradually revealed to the visitor by means of a curved path, and its drama is only fully apparent on entry. The shift in character which becomes apparent within the building is reflected in the materials of its construction with Caithness stone used for the retaining wall and larch for the open plan main rooms.

The architecture is determinedly minimalist, with polished concrete floors and the exclusion of features such as skirtings or architraves.  The architect’s intention was to concentrate the eye on the relationship between the interior and exterior, the stunning view over Loch Dunvegan, and in this has been entirely successful.  The single space, with its wall of glass and supplementary balancing natural light from clerestory glazing between the roof joists is completely satisfying

This house is a deceptively simple response to a unique island setting. Combining both shelter and drama, it is both respectful of its special location and a superb contemporary dwelling for its inhabitants.


House no 7, Isle of Tiree, Denizen Works

This restoration and extension of a ruined, B-listed, Tiree black-house effectively provides two houses within a single curtilage. The extensions follow the spirit of local agricultural buildings in their materials, roof forms and particularly in the use of corrugated cladding. The tradition of reconstructing Hebridean black-houses with black tarred roofing, rather than their original thatched roofs (held down by stone weighted netting), is sufficiently long established to have become an alternative local vernacular. This approach, allied to the utilitarian agricultural appearance of the extensions, creates an external form that is both contextual and appropriate.

Set in the southern coat of the island, House no. 7 enjoys views of Duin Bay to the south, set within a typical Tiree undulating machair, punctuated by other traditional housing. Without any natural shelter from the wind, the house hunkers down within its exposed setting. However, the interior is designed to be light, bright, welcoming and cosy, in contrast with the robust forms of the exterior. Extensive use of timber, alongside the exposed natural stone, enhances the perceived warmth of the interior while heating is provided through an air-source heat pump.

Internal circulation and the connection between the two discreet living spaces is provided by a glass-roofed corridor which again enhances light to the interior, contributing to the dual character of this extraordinary development as a clever play on the traditional in the exterior and a dwelling full of delight within.  The quality of this internal space is such that it is  difficult to express in words, or indeed, show in photographs, its impact in three dimensions.  It is truly inspiring, with the quality of the detailing adding to the sense of pleasure it creates, and indeed inspiring a reassessment of the quality of thought behind the design.

What is particularly noteworthy about this entry is the quality of the detailing; the way in which materials have been selected and their relationship to each other.  This house is notable for the tactile pleasure which is invoked by every simple activity, even just opening a door.  It is full of thoughtful playfulness.




Posted on Thursday 19th June 2014