Homes revive local building traditions

The first two finalists for the RIBA’s House of the Year award have been named.

They are: Shawm House in Northumbria by MawsonKerr Architects; and Caring Wood in Kent by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell, of Rural Office for Architecture.

Both projects were announced as finalists in tonight’s episode of Channel 4’s Grand Designs: House of the Year. The other finalists will be announced in subsequent weeks, with the winner declared on November 28.

Shawm House in West Woodburn was hand built by the client, Richard Pender, for his parents, guided by architect Dan Kerr. He built it on site in an existing barn were he created a bespoke jig to enable him to construct the timber frame, before applying timber cladding and other finishes.

The judges described it as, “One of Northumberland’s finest homes. Moreover Shawm House is a standout example of what is possible with clarity of thought and exceptional and focused deployment of an architects skills”.

Highly contextual, it uses local materials and frames views of the Northumbrian countryside. It has an internal area of 274sq m and cost £1,281/sq m.

Caring Wood near Maidstone is much bigger, at 1,443sq m, because it was designed for three generations of one family, but it still feels like a home, said the judges.

They praised the architects’ manipulation of “space and scale to balance the need for grandeur with intimacy – from the soaring spaces of the piano nobile to the living spaces partially embedded in the hillside below”.

Its four towers, clad in clay tiles and linked by a common roof, resemble Kent’s traditional oast houses, a number of which are visible from inside.

The judges were also impressed by the quality of the build, the level of craftsmanship and the pared-back palette of local materials: handmade peg clay tiles, ragstone and chestnut cladding.

They said: “It is a rich, warm palette that ties the house to the Kent countryside and speaks of ‘place’.”

The longlist for House of the Year 2017 is here.