RIBA House of the Year 2017 award for Caring Wood

Caring Wood wins RIBA House of the Year 2017

James MacDonald-Wright and Niall Maxwell were crowned winner's of the 2017 competition

By Gemma Parkes |

In Channel 4’s four-part series, Grand Designs: House of the Year, architects James MacDonald-Wright and Niall Maxwell were crowned winner’s of the RIBA House of the Year 2017 award for their project, Caring Wood.

Built over 1450 sqm of Kent countryside, Caring Wood is an extraordinary home. Inspired by traditional oast houses – the agricultural buildings for kilning hops – architects James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell’s ambitious project seeks to recreate the traditional ‘English country house’ in the 21st century.

The architects also envisioned to build a family home that could accommodate three generations while encompassing both a communal and private feel.

Crowned as winner of the RIBA House of the Year 2017, ‘the jury were impressed the quality of the build, the level of craftmanship and the rigour-packed materials’ used in the Caring Wood project.

The design of the house was another defining factor that led Macdonald Wright and Maxwell to victory. Caring Wood is modern but shows ‘clear links to the Kentish vernacular and local building traditions’.

Grand Designs magazine takes a look at five of the innovative design ideas used in the award-winning contemporary English country house.

1. Timber frame cladding

This ‘hidden’ three-storey courtyard sits at the centre of the main house. Described as a ‘sky space’ for quiet contemplation, the courtyard is shut off from the communal areas of the houses and hosts breath taking views of the surrounding land.

The building’s form was developed around the central courtyard in order for the oast towers ‘providing summer cooling by passive stack ventilation.’

The use of exterior timber cladding contributes towards maintaining a low carbon footprint as requires less energy to product than any other construction material.

riba house fo the year winner caring wood english country home grand designs

Photo: James Morris

2. Oast towers with interlinking roofs and chestnut cladding

The house comprises of four towers with an interlinking roof which is built entirely using ‘locally sourced peg clay tiles, locally quarried ragstone and locally coppiced chestnut cladding.’

The richness and warmth of the chestnut shade is fitting with the Kent countryside and gives off a true English country house feel.

riba house of the year winner caring wood

Photo: Heiko Prigge

3. Modern vernacular staircase

Caring Wood comprises of many staircases, eight to be exact.

Macdonald Wright and Maxwell opted for the vernacular design, running the staircases from the communal spaces such as the living areas to the hidden central courtyard.

inside the caring wood sloping staircases

Photo: James Morris

4. Rooftop windows

Caring Wood also won the title of House of the Year 2017 due to it’s ‘excellent sustainable credentials.’ The form of the building was developed around the central courtyard with the oast tower windows administering natural light and summer cooling by ‘passive stack ventilation.’

By using HF310 Internorm Timber Composite Passivhaus windows and HS330 Internorm Sliding Doors from Eco Haus, the architects were able to achieve glass corners and large openings throughout the building.

Using timber/aluminium means that the house is thermally insulated and ‘provides a carbon neutral response to climate change.’

The angular design of the frames, their narrow construction and ‘milled guiding rails’ support the house’ architectural design. And, they’re built with ‘energy-saving fibre glass’ which is also available in ‘low-level design.

high ceiling roof top window winner caring wood

Photo: Heiko Prigge

5. Wooden flooring

Macdonald Wright and Maxwell chose wooden flooring and crisp white walls throughout the house.

This clean and contrasting colour combo ’emphasises the irregularities and height of the ceiling’. The colours compliment the deep terracotta cladding to mimic the make-up of a chestnut, which is a very fitting design for the ‘English country home’ inspired abode.

inside the caring wood

Photo: Heiko Prigge