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Two more houses shortlisted for RIBA House of the Year 2016

RIBA House of the Year 2016 shortlist episode 2

02 December 2016

The latest two projects shortlisted for the 2016 RIBA House of the Year are:

  • Covert House, Clapham, south London by DSDHA
  • Murphy House, New Town, Edinburgh by Richard Murphy Architects

They join the following two houses already on the RIBA House of the Year shortlist, with another three yet to be announced

  • Ansty Plum, Wiltshire by Coppin Dockray
  • Outhouse, Forest of Dean by Loyn & Co Architects

The RIBA House of the Year is sponsored by Hiscox Home Insurance and Paint and Paper Library. Please use @RIBA #HouseOfTheYear in your social media.


Notes to editors:

  1. For further press information contact Howard Crosskey, 020 7307 3814
  2. The RIBA House of the Year award is awarded every year to the best new house designed by an architect in the UK. It was created in 2001 (and called the RIBA Manser Medal until 2014) to celebrate excellence in housing design.
  3. The judges for the 2016 RIBA House of the Year award: Chair, Meredith Bowles from Mole Architects, RIBA Awards Jury Chair and RIBA House of the Year longlist 2015; Charlotte Skene Catling from Skene Catling de la Pena, RIBA House of the Year winner 2015; Jonathan Dallas from Dallas Pierce Quintero, RIBA House of the Year longlist 2015; Elle Stathaki Architecture Editor for Wallpaper* and Phil Thorn, Head of Direct Homes Insurance Hiscox.
  4. Hiscox is a global specialist insurer with a 100 year heritage of insuring unusual or complex risks, such as high value homes, fine art and other collections. RIBA House of the Year is sponsored by Hiscox Home Insurance, visit for more information about our Home Insurance.
  5. Paint & Paper Library was established in London over 20 years ago: its mission is to provide inspiration, colour expertise and design ideas for interior decorators, architects, specifiers and discerning homeowners worldwide. The company’s paints are credited with creating an unrivalled balance of colour, mood and light in contemporary interiors.
    Paint & Paper Library’s colour card falls into two sections: ‘Architectural Colours’ and ‘Original Colours’. ‘Architectural Colours’ is an easy-to-use, colour-by-number system, designed to provide simple alternatives to white. It comes in a choice of 95 graduated shades, individually formulated using different strengths of the same pigments to achieve subtle shade differentiations within any interior. The company also prides itself on producing the flattest emulsion on the market, as well as several more durable finishes for ‘every day’. For more information visit
  6. The Royal Institute of British Architects (@RIBA) is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment. @RIBA
  7. Grand Designs: House of the Year is produced by Boundless, producers of Grand Designs.

The RIBA judges’ full citations for each building follows:

Covert House, Clapham, South London by DSDHA

As very busy architects Deborah Saunt and David Hills of DSDHA have had to wait a long time to design their own home – but the wait has been worthwhile. They have used it as a test-bed for their ideas on sustainability. Their experiments – carried out under restrictive Conservation Area planning conditions – resulted in an unorthodox, semi-underground house that challenges what it means to design a contemporary domestic space.

The two-storey house is a simple composition of two interlocked white cubes, which is entirely shielded from street view. The planners limited to a single-storey height so DSDHA had to half bury the house. The exterior presents itself as a low-rise, lightweight architectural piece of architecture, clad in white render, with chamfered mirror reveals. The house also has to follow strict rules to reduce overlooking from neighbouring gardens: it has a stepped roof line in section so it is lower close to garden boundaries, from which it is set back clear from on all sides.

Covert House is indeed a case study on the potential for unlocking backland sites and creating architectural opportunities that subtly densify our residential areas and respond to the urban necessity of building more houses close to the city centre. Allowing for more well designed houses to be built in existing private backland sites may also be a way for people to develop the assets they own and live in, while also releasing some of their equity.

This is an exquisitely crafted home, with every detail and material carefully thought through; a beautiful space that is immediately calming and exciting. The exposed in-situ concrete interior gives the project a unique identity; whilst evidently structural it is also delicate, beautifully detailed and finely executed. The mirror façade softens the edges of the building and allows it to sit playfully within the surrounding garden context.

The site strategy is a brilliant response to planning issues, providing a model for sensitive densification, and achieving a very good-looking house.

Murphy House, Edinburgh by Richard Murphy Architects

This project is a rare example of construction of a contemporary house within the World Heritage Site of the New Town of Edinburgh. It is a house designed by Richard Murphy for his own use and is consequently something of an architectural and environmental experiment. There are a number of agendas at work.

Firstly, with a modest floor area of 165 m2 on a footprint of only 11 metre x 6 metre, (formerly half of a garden to an apartment on Forth Street), it nevertheless contains three bedrooms, a living/dining/kitchen area at varying levels, study, basement storage, garage, utility room and roof terrace.

Secondly, it is an essay in how contemporary design might contribute to a historic and particular place in the New Town, in this instance an unresolved junction of two streets. The adjacent gable end should not have been exposed and the house deliberately responded by becoming a “bookend” to it, with its front façade continuing the stonework pattern of the street façade.

Thirdly, the house had to preserve the privacy and sky views from the adjacent apartment and this contributed to the bookend section.

Fourthly, there is a very strong energy agenda in the new house. The roof consists of photovoltaic cells and substantial south-facing glazing. Underneath this are mechanised insulated shutters allowing the glass to generate heat when open but preventing it radiating heat when closed. A computerised internal air circulation system takes warm air from the top of the house to the basement via a gravel rock store to produce a delayed heat source for evening use. The main heating source for the house is a 150 metres deep ground source borehole connecting to a heat exchanger which feeds under-floor heating. All the major windows to the house have insulated shutters. Rainwater which follows a course of pools and waterfalls on the roof terrace finds it way to grey-water storage tanks in the basement and is then used to flush toilets and supply a sprinkler system. Heat is extracted from the flue of a log burning stove to pre-heat hot water.

A final agenda is the many architectural influences at work. Not least is the work of Carlo Scarpa, on whom Richard Murphy is an authority. The roof terrace is a homage to the garden of the Querini Stampalia in Venice using the same exposed aggregate walls and sourcing tiles from Scarpa’s original manufacturer in Venice. Internally, the Venetian “stucco lucido” coloured plasterwork is used extensively. The Sir John Soane Museum and the Maison de Verre are also great influences in the use of illusion and moving elements. Reitveld’s Schroder house makes an appearance in a “disappearing corner” stone panel opening, designed to be the same proportions as his famous window.

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