The Red House in Dorset beats shortlist rivals, including Macdonald Wright Architects’ Library House

David Kohn Architects’ “ordinary yet quirky” Dorset family home The Red House has won the 2022 RIBA House of the Year award.

It beat projects by RX Architects, Sandy Rendel, Prewett Bizley, Surman Weston, Haysom Ward Miller, and Macdonald Wright to the accolade – won last year by Stirling Prize winner Alison Brooks.

The seven-strong shortlist for this year’s House of the Year award emerged over the past three weeks as part of the Channel 4 show Grand Designs House of the Year. Kohn’s victory came in the same episode in which Macdonald Wright’s The Library House was revealed as the final shortlisted project.

James Macdonald Wright won the 2017 House of the Year Award for the Caring Wood country house project in Kent, designed with Niall Maxwell.

Award jury chair Taro Tsuruta, described Kohn’s Red House as “ordinary yet quirky, extravagant although utilitarian” and said it was the most talked-about of 2022’s shortlisted candidates.

“The Red House confronts our expectations of a house in a beautiful setting that never wants to settle into being one way or another,” he said.

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Source: Will Pryce

Inside The Red House, by David Kohn Architects

“An aesthetic and sustainable building with future-proof functionality, it draws on architectural references from Morris to Stirling – with many surprises throughout, which were applauded by all the jury members.

“Internally, the enfilade is formed without doors from the entrance to the living, kitchen and dining area, allowing the space to magically flow. This house was certainly the most debated, which in itself deserves praise.”

Inspired by the Arts and Crafts movement, The Red House reinterprets the style in an intentionally provocative way. Its playful eccentricities include oversized eaves, patterned red brickwork, and contrasting bold green details. However the jury said the property was also “consistently underpinned by outstanding craftsmanship and attention to detail”.

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Source: Will Pryce

The staircase is a central feature of the house – a sumptuous, sculptural design sweeping up to the first floor and dropping down through a projecting bay window.

Designed with an eye to climate-change, the house has thick walls and deep eaves, protecting the façade from the elements and minimising overheating during summer months. Steel piles were used in place of deep concrete foundations, reducing embodied carbon in the groundworks.

The slate roof discretely provides a home for the local bat population, while further nesting sites have also been incorporated into the brickwork and eaves to encourage wildlife.

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Source: Will Pryce

David Kohn said winning House of the Year was “validation of the ambition and unerring support” of the project clients and the dedication of the whole project team.

“The jury have chosen to support architecture that is intimate, playful, colourful, and engages both with its context and history,” he said. “I could not be more delighted.”

Construction of the project was managed by Ken Biggs Contractors; structural engineer was Momentum; QS was Petter Gunning & Partners; interior design was by 8 Holland Street; landscape architect was Todd Longstaffe Gowan; and CDM consultant was Insight CDM. 

The Library House, by Macdonald Wright Architects

Slotted in next to Edwin Cooper’s grade II-listed Clapton Library in Hackney, Macdonald Wright Architects’ two-bedroom The Library House is just 4m wide and has a total floorspace of just 84sq m, making it easily the smallest candidate on the 2022 House of the Year shortlist. It has an internal area 17 times smaller than Caring Wood.

The project, for which the architects were also the clients, is purposefully built for the rental market. It makes use of left-over hand-made clay tiles from Caring Wood to form lintels over openings.

Half of the house’s façade reflects the brick of the neighbouring terraced properties, the other half features a Corten steel screen and a Passivhaus-standard front door and post box, which both reflects the red brick of the library and makes a strong contemporary statement.

>> Also read: This year’s RIBA House of the Year looks like a house. That might not be a bad thing.

Full shortlist: RIBA House of the Year 2022

:: Mews House Deep Retrofit, London, by Prewett Bizley Architects

:: Seabreeze, East Sussex, by RX Architects

:: Suffolk Cottage, Suffolk, by Haysom Ward Miller Architects

:: Surbiton Springs, London, by Surman Weston

:: The Dutch Barn, West Sussex, by Sandy Rendel Architects

:: The Library House, London, by Macdonald Wright Architects

:: The Red House, Dorset, by David Kohn Architects