Modern take on English country house wins House of the Year

‘Caring Wood’, a “reimagining of the traditional English country house” was the winner of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)’s House of the Year 2017.

Designed by

James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell, the house is inspired by the traditional oasthouses of Kent. It revives local building crafts and traditions with its inclusion of locally sourced handmade peg clay tiles, local quarries’ ragstone, and coppiced chestnut cladding.

The house comprises four towers with interlinking roofs that echo other oasthouses in the distance. Commenting on the decision to crown ‘Caring Wood’ the

winner RIBA House of the Year 2017 jury chair Deborah Saunt said that it had a deeper significance: “Beyond the impression of sublime craftsmanship and spatial grandeur this house offers, it leads us to fundamentally question how we might live together in the future. At a time when we increasingly atomised, individually preoccupied and lost in personalised digital worlds, designing homes where families can come together in an increasingly important aim.” She continued: “This is a brave project offering a new

prototype. In deploying homes that cater for extended families across urban, suburban and rural sites, this may offer solutions not only to the country’s housing crisis – where families might live together longer – but also by providing care solutions for young and old alike, freeing people from punishing costs.” James Macdonald Wright of Macdonald Wright Architects said of the win: “Sustainability in architectural practice is expected, but I believe regionalism, craft and the interpretation of the vernacular are also important. I’m delighted that, in ‘Caring Wood’, they are being recognised. This project proves that by joining together, small practices can do big things.” Niall Maxwell of Rural Office echoed Macdonald Wright’s sentiments. He commented on their win: “This would never have happened without James inviting us to work with him on the project. Collaboration with many talented people enabled us to realise the design for this contemporary country house. This demonstrates what small practices are capable of when given the chance by enlightened clients.” RIBA president Ben Derbyshire said: “This ambitious house

explores new architectural methods, materials and crafts and allows us to question the future of housing and the concept of multi-generational living.” The RIBA House of the Year award is presented annually to the best new house or extension designed by an architect in the UK. As in previous years, the 2017 shortlist was revealed week by week in the four-part Channel 4 series Grand Designs: House of the Year. The other finalists were: Shawm House by MawsonKerr Architects; Ness Point by Tonkin Liu; 6 Wood Lane by Birds Portchmouth Russum; The Quest by Strom Architects; Newhouse of Auchengree by Ann Nisbet Studio; Hidden House by Coffey Architects.

january/february 2018 9 © James Morris

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