house in assynt house of the year

Sustainable simplicity in the Scottish Highlands

House in Assynt, as shown on Grand Designs: House of the Year 2021, is a masterclass in tackling remote plots

By Victoria Purcell | 1 December 2021

RIBA called House in Assynt, located in the North West Highlands of Scotland, ‘an exemplary model of sustainable and considered architecture’. Little surprise then, that it made the House of the Year 2021 shortlist.

The sparsely populated coastal area of Assynt is known for its landscape and remarkable mountains. Beautiful to look at, but not so ideal for construction work.

Created by Mary Arnold-Forster Architects, the site had existing planning permission for a ‘traditional’ house facing onto the road. But on seeing the view, Mary decided to radically re-design the scheme and return to planning.

house in assynt from grand designs house of the year 2021

Photo: David Barbour Photography

Owners Heather and Phil had always had a hankering to live in the middle of nowhere, but didn’t know what they wanted, they just wanted something that ‘felt right with the terrain’.

Overlooking Loch Nedd and the Quinag mountains, the area is within the Assynt-Coigach National Scenic Area – a protected area of exceptional scenery. Mary designed the 100sqm House in Assynt to sit ‘lightly on the landscape’ between two rocky outcrops, resting it on stilts on a barely there concrete strip, so as not to disturb the land more than was necessary.

Exceptional scenery it may be, but it’s a tricky spot to build a house. During Grand Design: House of the Year, presenter Damion Burrows described the site as a ‘rocky, boggy windswept wilderness’.

house in assynt house of the year 2021 shortlist

Photo: David Barbour Photography