Grand Designs explore the RIBA House of the Year shortlist


A vast holiday home big enough to house its own concert hall, a quirky take on the traditional shepherd’s hut in the Scottish Highlands and an ‘upside down’ dwelling adapted for it’s retired owners are all in the running to named house of the year by the Royal Institute of British Architects.

RIBA has compiled the longlist for the 2017 RIBA House of the Year Award – the country’s most prestigious award for a new house or extension – and the jaw-dropping properties that have made it into the ‘local’ category are the first to be explored by Kevin McCloud on Channel 4’s Grand Designs. 

Making use of natural materials to fit in with their surroundings, the properties have been heavily praised by judges for their exceptionally sympathetic design.

The new series of Grand Designs: House of the Year, follows Kevin as he visits a list of modern homes tipped for the prestigious prize. Here, FEMAIL takes a look inside the first crop of contenders…

CARING WOOD 

Caring Wood is built on a massive 84-acre estate near Kent, a striking collection of buildings inspired by traditional oast houses

Caring Wood is built on a massive 84-acre estate near Kent, a striking collection of buildings inspired by traditional oast houses

On an enormous 84-acre estate near Kent sits the striking Caring Wood, a holiday home with distinctive red roofs that boasts its own concert hall.

It’s unique design is inspired by traditional oast houses that were once used to dry hops for the nation’s breweries, many of which have now been transformed into homes.

Kevin McCloud described Macdonald Wright Architects and Rural Office for Architecture’s modern take on the traditional buildings as an ‘oast house on steroids’. 

The extraordinary house took three years to design and a further three to build.  

The hidden three-storey courtyard sits in the centre of the main house - used for 'quiet contemplation' - with a statue in the centre that looks like it belongs to a museum

The hidden three-storey courtyard sits in the centre of the main house - used for 'quiet contemplation' - with a statue in the centre that looks like it belongs to a museum

The hidden three-storey courtyard sits in the centre of the main house – used for ‘quiet contemplation’ – with a statue in the centre that looks like it belongs to a museum

Covering a massive 1,443sqm of stony outcrop, it accommodates three generations of one extended family – the brief was a house big enough for the Maxwells would have a place they could all come to to enjoy spending time together.

The property comprises of four individual oast houses are built around a main core, with visitors entering through a gallery and concert space that leads to a main communal living area on the lower floor, and a concealed courtyard, used for ‘quiet contemplation’, at the centre.

The houses divide the estate into separate parts connected by what Kevin McCloud described as ‘hidden passageways’ – offering each offshoot of the Maxwell family privacy in their own quarters. 

Part owner James Maxwell, who had input into the design, told Kevin how if any of the children get lost they communicate via walkie talkies. 

The red roofs are reminiscent of a oast house roofs, buildings which were constructed to dry hops for the nation's breweries, many of which have now been turned into homes

The red roofs are reminiscent of a oast house roofs, buildings which were constructed to dry hops for the nation's breweries, many of which have now been turned into homes

The red roofs are reminiscent of a oast house roofs, buildings which were constructed to dry hops for the nation’s breweries, many of which have now been turned into homes

The interior decor is bright and airy to make use of the space - hallways connecting to the concert hall at the forefront of the space and leading into the living area

The interior decor is bright and airy to make use of the space - hallways connecting to the concert hall at the forefront of the space and leading into the living area

The interior decor is bright and airy to make use of the space – hallways connecting to the concert hall at the forefront of the space and leading into the living area

The four houses surround the main core and are each accessible via hidden passageways to give the extended family privacy

The four houses surround the main core and are each accessible via hidden passageways to give the extended family privacy

The four houses surround the main core and are each accessible via hidden passageways to give the extended family privacy

SHAWM HOUSE

Nestled on a farm in Northumberland, Shawm House is an perfect example of marrying the old with the new.

The ‘upside down’ carbon neutral farmhouse, which cost £420,000 to build, is inspired by traditional old cottages that held livestock at the bottom and living quarters on top. The bedrooms are on the ground floor, freeing up the upstairs for a spacious living area with stunning views. 

It was built by Mawsham Architects using locally quarried stone and larch wood from near the Scottish border for retirees Anne and Tony Pender, and their son Richard, who was also the builder on the project. 

Shawm House is one of the shortlisted properties in the 'local' category, which are inspired by the local landscape

Shawm House is one of the shortlisted properties in the 'local' category, which are inspired by the local landscape

Shawm House is one of the shortlisted properties in the ‘local’ category, which are inspired by the local landscape

The unconventional upside-down layout means the living quarters of the property are upstairs and take advantage of the light and stunning vista

The unconventional upside-down layout means the living quarters of the property are upstairs and take advantage of the light and stunning vista

The unconventional upside-down layout means the living quarters of the property are upstairs and take advantage of the light and stunning vista

The building sits alongside a courtyard which incorporates an old stable block now used as a plush study. 

The ground floor has three bedrooms and a utility room while the top floor features an enormous open plan kitchen and living area.

The unconventional layout means the upstairs living quarters benefit from additional space and height, not to mention the inspiring vista visible from the large windows.

A double-height hallway at the entrance leads to the cosy master bedroom, and should the stairs prove too tiresome in the morning, the owners can take the lift to the first floor. 

The home’s exceptional environmental credentials, and the attractive way in which the new work and ancient existing farm buildings co-exist impressed the Royal Institute of British Architects judges, who said it was a ‘meeting between the two, beautifully stated and composed’. 

The building sits alongside the courtyard which incorporates the old stable block as a study. The ground floor has three bedrooms and a utility room with the top floor featuring an enormous open plan kitchen and living area

The building sits alongside the courtyard which incorporates the old stable block as a study. The ground floor has three bedrooms and a utility room with the top floor featuring an enormous open plan kitchen and living area

The building sits alongside the courtyard which incorporates the old stable block as a study. The ground floor has three bedrooms and a utility room with the top floor featuring an enormous open plan kitchen and living area

HILL HOUSE

Couple Anne Claxton and Mike Keys spent ten years living in their Bath bungalow before they began transforming it into the ambitious Hill House, giving themselves time to soak in the city’s classic architecture for inspiration.

They finally knocked down their three-bed bungalow and rebuilt the property after getting the green light from planners, who were initially hesitant that the proposed design would jar with the nearby listed buildings.

Set on a third of an acre and built over 230sqm, the property is comprised of two blocks built from a brick that is strikingly similar to the Bath stone used elsewhere in the city.

Hill House is situated in the heart of Bath and is made from a brick that is strikingly similar to the Bath stone used in the city

Hill House is situated in the heart of Bath and is made from a brick that is strikingly similar to the Bath stone used in the city

Hill House is situated in the heart of Bath and is made from a brick that is strikingly similar to the Bath stone used in the city

Owners Anne Claxton and Mike Keys spent ten years living in the bungalow before knocking it down and rebuilding it into something more modern 

Owners Anne Claxton and Mike Keys spent ten years living in the bungalow before knocking it down and rebuilding it into something more modern 

Owners Anne Claxton and Mike Keys spent ten years living in the bungalow before knocking it down and rebuilding it into something more modern 

The entrance hallway leads through to a study which connects one half of the building – where their two daughters live in quarters complete with their own private entrance – to the other half, which contains the master bedroom and an open plan living and kitchen area.

Adrian Neilson, senior conservation officer at the local council, was initially wary of the proposed build, but came to see how the injection of modern architecture could be achieved in a sensitive way.

‘It was a sensitive site with many listed buildings, we were concerned whether or not that those developments wouldn’t respect that context and actually enhance not only the setting of those buildings but also the conservation area,’ he explained.

‘It does prove you can deviate from classical architecture and still be successful even in a place like Bath.’

The uninterrupted line from the hallway means the garden can be seen from the entrance to the spacious family home

The uninterrupted line from the hallway means the garden can be seen from the entrance to the spacious family home

The uninterrupted line from the hallway means the garden can be seen from the entrance to the spacious family home

NO 49

Architect Stephen Davisand wife Laura Lewis-Davis, a museum curator, started the transformation of their London home by shifting its aspect by 90 degrees so that it runs parallel to the road.

Surrounded by traditional terraced houses the innovative two-bedroom at ‘No 49’ certainly stands out.

It is built around a central kitchen and diner, with a studio and one bedroom downstairs and a master bedroom upstairs along with a TV room, which can also be used as a guest bedroom.

Presenter Kevin McCloud explained how the couple have ‘rewritten the classic layout’, forgoing traditional rooms for enclosed spaces that flow into one another via a series of sliding doors and storage spaces that act as wall dividers.  

Surrounded by traditional terraced houses, No 49 sits, which runs parralel to the road, stands out for all the right reasons

Surrounded by traditional terraced houses, No 49 sits, which runs parralel to the road, stands out for all the right reasons

Surrounded by traditional terraced houses, No 49 sits, which runs parralel to the road, stands out for all the right reasons

Every aspect of the interior is  organised precision thanks to museum curator and owner Laura who likes to make use of every nook and cranny

Every aspect of the interior is  organised precision thanks to museum curator and owner Laura who likes to make use of every nook and cranny

Every aspect of the interior is organised precision thanks to museum curator and owner Laura who likes to make use of every nook and cranny

He singles out the wooden spiral staircase that leads up to the master bedroom as his favourite part of the house.

Laura’s touch is evident in the interior, which Kevin described as feeling ‘very curated’, with every nook and cranny used for unique decorative touches. 

She explained: ‘It is about having things that are not too cluttered but small collections. When you live in an old house you have nooks and crannies, so we were very conscious not to design them out because you need nooks and crannies. They have character, you can display your objects.’

Even the utility room has been organised with precision, complete with a peg board hanging with a display of tools.

The property also won praise from their neighbours, who gushed over the design. ‘People are flattered that he [architect Stephen] has decided to build down our street, there is a lot of pride in that,’ one said, while another added the house has ‘improved our view’. 

The interior is progressive, forgoing traditional rooms for spaces that flow into one another with the help of sliding doors and storage units that also serve as wall dividers

The interior is progressive, forgoing traditional rooms for spaces that flow into one another with the help of sliding doors and storage units that also serve as wall dividers

The interior is progressive, forgoing traditional rooms for spaces that flow into one another with the help of sliding doors and storage units that also serve as wall dividers

The wooden spiral staircase that leads up to the first floor master bedroom is a striking feature that was custom built for the house

The wooden spiral staircase that leads up to the first floor master bedroom is a striking feature that was custom built for the house

The wooden spiral staircase that leads up to the first floor master bedroom is a striking feature that was custom built for the house

The interior is all about collections of objects rather than clutter, with each element being deliberately selected and placed by the owners

The interior is all about collections of objects rather than clutter, with each element being deliberately selected and placed by the owners

The interior is all about collections of objects rather than clutter, with each element being deliberately selected and placed by the owners

FERNAIG COTTAGE

Outdoor enthusiasts Gill Scampton and Andy Barnett bought their rundown shepherd’s hut in the Scottish Highlands for £100,000 four years ago.

They were so enamoured with the original building that instead of knocking it down they decided to renovate the interior and to build an updated replica to sit alongside it.

Determined to maintain the integrity of the site, they even travelled to Sweden to order a custom-painted tin roof for the new structure that would perfectly match the colour of the original building.

Together the two buildings create the beautiful Fernaig Cottage.  

Fernaig Cottage is made up of the original shepherd's hut on the right, and its twin extension on the left - meticulously planned by owners and outdoor enthusiasts Gill Scampton and Andy Barnett

Fernaig Cottage is made up of the original shepherd's hut on the right, and its twin extension on the left - meticulously planned by owners and outdoor enthusiasts Gill Scampton and Andy Barnett

Fernaig Cottage is made up of the original shepherd’s hut on the right, and its twin extension on the left – meticulously planned by owners and outdoor enthusiasts Gill Scampton and Andy Barnett

The interior of the cottage is a complete contrast to the exterior - modern and minimalist in the living area before it transforms in the bedrooms to become more cosy and cottage-like 

The interior of the cottage is a complete contrast to the exterior - modern and minimalist in the living area before it transforms in the bedrooms to become more cosy and cottage-like 

The interior of the cottage is a complete contrast to the exterior – modern and minimalist in the living area before it transforms in the bedrooms to become more cosy and cottage-like 

Over four years the couple worked with a local builder to develop and plan the structure to stay true to its farming heritage.

RIBA said that the couple’s ‘gentle diligence [had] enhanced the remote corner of Scotland’.

The original hut houses three bedrooms and a bathroom while the new twin extension features an open plan living and dining area.

A wood-burning stove takes centre-stage in the living area - with the exposed chimney juxtaposed against the country views

A wood-burning stove takes centre-stage in the living area - with the exposed chimney juxtaposed against the country views

A wood-burning stove takes centre-stage in the living area – with the exposed chimney juxtaposed against the country views

The original shepherd's hut, left, was used as a starting point for the second structure, right,  as the architects copied every measurement to make them identical

The original shepherd's hut, left, was used as a starting point for the second structure, right,  as the architects copied every measurement to make them identical

The original shepherd’s hut, left, was used as a starting point for the second structure, right,  as the architects copied every measurement to make them identical

The Royal Institute of British Architecture praised the couple for their 'gentle diligence [which had] enhanced the remote corner of Scotland'

The Royal Institute of British Architecture praised the couple for their 'gentle diligence [which had] enhanced the remote corner of Scotland'

The Royal Institute of British Architecture praised the couple for their ‘gentle diligence [which had] enhanced the remote corner of Scotland’

The two shortlisted contenders for the RIBA award will be announced on Grand Designs House of the Year airs tonight on Channel 4 at 8pm.  



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