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Murphy House wins RIBA House of the Year 2016

RIBA House of the Year 2016 winner

15 December 2016

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is pleased to announce today (Thursday 15 December 2016) that Murphy House in Edinburgh by Richard Murphy Architects is the 2016 RIBA House of the Year, sponsored by Hiscox Home Insurance.

This five-level house is a surprising addition to an otherwise conservative sandstone terraced street in Edinburgh’s UNESCO-listed New Town. Built on an awkward plot at the end of a terrace, Richard Murphy has designed for himself a deeply personal space filled with tricks, surprises and references to his own design heroes. From a hidden bath in the master bedroom and a folding corner wall, to sliding bookshelf ladders that glide around the subterranean library, this house is filled with a unique and spirited charm. Murphy, inspired by the work of the late Carlo Scarpa, a 20th century Italian architect has created a house full of pure, beautiful craftsmanship.

RIBA President Jane Duncan said: “The Murphy House is this year’s best example of how to overcome challenging constraints – from planning restrictions and an awkward site in an urban location - to build a stunning house. Plus the architect overcame one of the biggest obstacles: a demanding client – himself!

“Nearly a decade in the making, this house is a true labour of love for Richard. Part jigsaw puzzle, with its hidden and unexpected spaces, and part Wallace and Gromit with its moving pieces and disappearing walls, this is a model house of pure perfection and a worthy winner of the RIBA House of the Year 2016.”

Richard Murphy said: “We celebrated our 25th birthday last month and to receive this award is a wonderful present with such astonishing levels of public interest. It’s our 21st RIBA award, and takes its place in a long line of awards for buildings small and large and for whole variety of types including domestic, educational, health, arts and a new British Embassy. It emphasises yet again that the practice demonstrates both great versatility and consistently high quality in all its work current and past. It’s been a huge pleasure to develop a lifetime’s themes and now it gives me great pleasure to live there.”

House of the Year judge, Philip Thorn from Hiscox said: "Murphy House was a real box of tricks with a unique, playful character. Although a small property, it was deceivingly large inside due to the clever use of space. Every room contained a surprise and the attention to detail was exceptional. The roof terrace was a real oasis of calm and I loved the long list of environmentally friendly touches. A true pleasure to visit and I would imagine a lot of fun to live in."

Also announced this evening was the seventh and final home shortlisted for the RIBA House of the Year: Tin House in west London by Henning Stummel Architects. The full shortlist for the 2016 RIBA House of the Year award is:

  • Ansty Plum, Wiltshire by Coppin Dockray
  • Covert House, Clapham, south London by DSDHA
  • Garden House in Hackney, east London by Hayhurst and Co
  • Modern Mews in central London by Coffey Architects
  • Murphy House, New Town, Edinburgh by Richard Murphy Architects
  • Outhouse, Forest of Dean by Loyn & Co Architects
  • Tin House in west London, by Henning Stummel 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 and images 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 were: 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. The announcement of the 2016 RIBA House of the Year winner was broadcast this evening during the final episode of Channel 4’s Grand Designs: House of the Year, a special series which has seen Kevin McCloud peek behind the front doors of the 20 exceptional homes longlisted for the RIBA’s annual award. Grand Designs: House of the Year is produced by Boundless, producers of Grand Designs.

The RIBA judges’ full citations and image links for each building follows:

Murphy House by Richard Murphy Architects

Richard Murphy’s own house in Edinburgh is a delightful essay in architecture. It speaks to its context with direct references to the Georgian terraces, and with a clever change of scale that is at once deferential and powerfully striking in the street. It makes great use of a small site, creating a delightful private outdoor space on the first floor, with light brought in through the roof, and a seemingly endless number of surprising spaces. It is a house that responds to the Scottish climate, opening up to the summer sun and then shutting itself down to create a snug refuge in the depth of winter. Sliding doors pull out of walls and roof shutters drop into place transforming the house from a light-filled space open to the exterior terrace, to an enclosed room, where candlelight wouldn’t seem out of place. It does all this with wit and style, in an architecture that Murphy has honed over the years to make distinct and personal. It feels an intense and personal space, playful and inventive, each corner revealing something new. Full of references to his architectural heroes the building could be read as homage to architectural history. Murphy has described the house as 'a quarter Soane, a quarter Scarpa, a quarter eco-house and a quarter Wallace and Gromit, the latter referring to the various ingenious devices in the house. In fact the house is beautifully composed and uniquely his own.

Tin House in west London, by Henning Stummel Architects

The back land site of the Tin House is entered from a modest London street through a ‘massive’ Soanian brick double-height arch – a gateway to a remarkable domestic inner world.

Creating a secluded place was a priority. The architects’ response was to develop a low, inward-looking, tranquil courtyard that is open to the south yet offers privacy, both visual and acoustic. The design is a composition of different pavilions: six earth-coloured metal-clad pyramidal top-lit forms.

The cladding is a warm earthy colour, which is in dialogue with the surrounding stock brick buildings. The space is maximized through these six interconnected pyramidal pods where the colour coated steel GreenCoat PLX BT was specified for the roofs and faćades. This gave cohesiveness to the separate but conjoined units allowing the project to create a dialogue with the warm, earthy London brick which surrounds the site. GreenCoat PLX BT features a Bio-based Technology (BT) with a substantial portion of the traditional fossil part replaced by a bio-based alternative like rapeseed oil. This unique, patented solution by SSAB reduces the environmental footprint of the house significantly.

This modest and utilitarian finish accentuates the monolithic and sculptural quality of the design. A calm rectangular pool of water allows for condensation cooling and the sun’s reflections from the water bring the facades to life. Each pavilion accommodates a room. The roof shape has a low contour and maximizes spatial volume. This source of light from above brings the spaces to life. The roof-lights can be opened and on warm days the stack effect ensures that fresh cool air is drawn in from above the pool. The Pantheon and the work of James Turrell have influenced the design of the top lit pavilions.

As one moves through the building the layout gives a changing enfilade of vistas and views, the geometric forms accentuated by the simple utilitarian finishes. The brick fireplace mirrors the entrance gateway in its scale and texture and acts as a ‘touchstone’ at the heart of the composition, grounding the house around a hearth.

The pavilions are super- insulated (250 mm of PU foam) and relatively airtight. A heat-recovery air system ensures energy efficient ventilation throughout the colder months.

Full of inventiveness, the cleverly detailed thick walls contain the services. The house has a beautiful balance of delight and is obviously an uplifting and practical place to live. The judges were all equally moved, delighted and inspired by this unexpected back-land jewel.

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