RIBA House of the Year 2017’s architects reveal their sustainable home design secrets

Grand Designs talks exclusively to the architects behind the Caring Wood project, which was crowned the RIBA House of the 2017. James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell discuss how they came up with the build's innovative design, how they tackled plot finding and much more.

By Jo Messenger | 22 January 2018

We talk plot finding, design inspiration and sourcing local materials in an exclusive interview with the architects behind Caring Wood.

riba house of the year 2017 caring wood

Image: James Morris

Set in 84 acres of the Kent countryside, Caring Wood is no ordinary home. Sculptural, sustainable and inspired by traditional oast houses, it was designed by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell. The pair had worked together on previous projects, so when Macdonald Wright embarked on an ambitious scheme to accommodate three generations of his own family, Maxwell was the obvious collaborator. The result of the eight-year-long process is a towering example of sustainability and craftsmanship.

Macdonald Wright and Maxwell’s project is modern but shows ‘clear links to the Kentish vernacular and local building traditions’. The innovative designs ideas incorporated in Caring Wood such as oast towers with interlinking roofs, timber-frame and chesnut cladding, and the use of modern vernacular staircases led their project to be awarded the RIBA House of the Year 2017.

We caught up with the MacDonald Wright and Maxwell to talk sustainbility, design innovation, plot finding and how to source local materials.