From a hand built barn to a castle-like clifftop vista, this selection of projects longlisted for the RIBA House of the Year will inspire your own self build project.

In Channel 4’s four-part series Grand Designs: House of the Year, the Royal Institute of British Architects looked for the best new home in Britain.

Co-hosted by Kevin McCloud, the judging panel, which included designer Sebastian Cox and architect and previous winner Richard Murphy, examined every facet of these cutting-edge homes and considered the ingenious features that make them the country’s most exemplary cases of contemporary architecture.

Caring Wood by James MacDonald-Wright, was awarded as the winner of the best new residential building by an artichtect in the UK. MacDonald-Wright's amibitious self build was just one of twenty longlisted properties who were in the running for the prize. We look back at the most inspirational houses that made the longlist.

Coastal hideaway: Redshank

 riba house fo the year costal hideaway redshank grand designs

Photo credit: Hélène Binet

Redshank is an artist’s studio and holiday home in Lee-over-Sands, Essex, designed by Lisa Shell Architects in collaboration with its owner, sculptor Marcus Taylor, as a place for him to both work and relax with his artist wife and two teenage sons.

By elevating the house a full storey with a steel tripod, its safety in a flood is assured and its impact on the salt marsh minimised.

Unfinished agglomerated cork panels act as the external insulating layer, while internally, there are only three rooms – living, bedroom and bathroom – with each window proportioned according to the prominence of the view.

Clifftop Vista: Ness Point

 riba house fo the year clifftop vista ness point grand designs

Photo credit: Nick Guttridge

Ness Point rises dramatically out of the unique landscape of the white cliffs of Dover; every room characterised by its own spectacular view: either towards the cliffs and out across the English Channel, or facing the rising or setting sun.

It is home to a family of five who commissioned Tonkin Liu to design a warm, sheltered home for the exposed setting that is 65m above sea level.

The highly insulated castle-like building uses heat recovery and solar thermal renewable systems for energy efficiency in the winter, while the long gallery skylight and eco-vents enable passive cooling in the summer.

At the rear, the bio-diverse green roof slopes down to ingeniously retain rainwater and harbour local wildlife.

Handbuilt Farm: Shawm House

riba house fo the year handbuilt barn shawm house grand designs

Photo credit: Rob Rhodes

Living on site, Richard Pender managed to construct this building for his retired parents, designed by MawsonKerr Architects by hand with little input from outside contractors.

Starting with an existing barn in which he structured a new timber frame, he finished the build by applying larch cladding that sympathetically connected the project to the old walled garden and small stone stable block.

Passivhaus construction was coupled with locally sourced materials for low impact. Superinsulation to the new and existing features, a biomass boiler and triple glazing throughout, work to make the building as sustainable as possible.

Wharfside Heritage: South Street

riba house fo the year wharfside heritage south street grand designs

Photo credit: Richard Chivers

South Street, a five-bedroom family home by Sandy Rendel Architects, replaced a derelict workshop on what was historically a wharf for the East Sussex town of Lewes.

Built above the roughcast concrete river wall, it enjoys expansive views through floor-to-ceiling frameless windows. At ground level on the riverside, the exposed frame is constructed of board-marked concrete echoing the tone and texture of the wall below.

In contrast, the street elevation features handmade ash-glazed Sussex brickwork local to the area, which gives a softer texture and more intimate scale to that side.

Corten steel is used to clad the building and enclose the garden, with the inventive touch of reversing the way that the sheets are hung between the elevations.

Urban living: Number 49

riba house fo the year urban living number 49 grand designs

Photo credit: Magdalena Pietrzyk (interior), Mike Russum (interior)

Crafted over a seven-year period and costing £600,000 to build, Six Wood Lane is a four-storey house in north London. Its distinctive style is full of quirky features, from its curving shape that hovers above the street below to the chain-operated roof lights.

Architects Birds Portchmouth Russum’s ambition was a home with spatial contrasts – a small entrance and compact bathrooms, but tall staircases opening out into generous communal spaces.

The double height living level contains an open plan kitchen-dining-living space with an elevated conservatory, views out to the garden and a front-facing terrace.

The garden and entrance level plinth is constructed with engineering brick, while the living area is made from cold-formed timber and resin boat-building technology for a surprising, space efficient construction.

Repurposed cottage: Fernaig cottage

riba house fo the year repurposed cottage fernaig cottage grand designs

Photo credit: Scampton Barnett

As both clients and architects, the owners of this extended former shepherd’s cottage, Andrew Barnett and Gillian Scampton were able to follow their design brief to the letter. 

While repurposing Fernaig Cottage in Wester Ross, they managed to keep all its character, including the stone walls of the original structure and the surrounding aged apple trees. The new red roofs echo the historic metal roofing that features throughout the Highlands, while at each end larch louvres were inspired by local listed barns.

Three bedrooms are incorporated within the original section, while the communal space of the new building is an open, lofty single volume, drawing in plenty of daylight and complementing the character of the cottage.

The total cost was £205,000.

Woodland setting: Highland House

riba house fo the year woodland setting highland house grand designs

Photo credit: Hélène Binet

The sculptural use of brick is the standout feature for this family’s four-bedroom modern new-build by Carmody Groarke.

Highgate House’s three linking sections navigate the curve of the street to create harmony with the surrounding properties. On entering, a double-height hall with a stunning picture window provides a strong connection to the garden and Highgate Woods.

This large central hall is the defining element in the building’s layout as the arrangement of other rooms spread out from it. The open-plan living areas are at ground floor, with more conventional single-use rooms on the upper levels, and a swimming pool on the third block on the eastern side.

Earthen-toned interior finishes, such as a mix of smoked-oak and travertine stone flooring, complement the exposed brickwork.


To see RIBA House of the Year 2017 winner: Look inside Caring Wood, the modern English country house

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