Farmhouse in the Welsh borders that combines traditional Georgian architecture with an angular space-age extension which took 10 years to build is crowned winner of Grand Designs: House of the Year
- Final episode of Grand Designs: House of the Year aired tonight on Channel 4 with winner of prize unveiled
- House on the Hill, a Georgian farmhouse on the Welsh borders with a space-age extension, won the crown
- Beat out fierce competition from imaginative properties including a sci-fi inspired water tower and tiny home
- Judges praised how every detail had been ‘meticulously considered and exquisitely finished’
A Georgian farmhouse with an angular space-age extension has been named top property on Grand Designs House of the Year.
In the final programme of the series, which aired tonight on Channel 4, Kevin McCloud and his co-presenters, architect Damion Burrows, and design expert Michelle Ogundehin, visited five exquisite homes across the UK battling it out for a place on the shortlist, all of which push the boundaries in conventional design.
However it was revealed at the end of the programme that the house to have won the ultimate prize from the RIBA judges was the House on the Hill, which featured in an earlier episode of the series.
The property, located in the remote Welsh borders, was described as ‘half traditional Georgian farmhouse and half space-age monolith with jagged walls and minimalist surfaces.’
The RIBA judges were blown away by the property, with RIBA President, Simon Allford explaining: ‘Intriguing and distinguished, House on the Hill is the impressive result of a ten-year collaboration between the homeowners and their architect. This is an extraordinary labour of love in architectural form.’
The building won the title over other shortlisted homes, including a 1960s sci-fi inspired water tower and tiny home crammed into London street.
A Georgian farmhouse on the Welsh borders with an angular space-age extension has been named top property on Grand Designs House of the Year (pictured)
The three-storey farmhouse has been converted into one vast gallery space that seamlessly integrates with the contemporary extension
To complement its arresting new wing, the 18th century stone farmhouse, which overlooks the Wye Valley in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, has also been meticulously restored.
Together the farmhouse and extension create an extraordinary new home for the owners and their art collection.
The three-storey farmhouse has been converted into one vast gallery space that seamlessly integrates with the contemporary extension.
Larger than the original house, the new two-storey wing is set back, partially embedded into the hillside, with its dark tones and cladding pattern inspired by the nearby Forest of Dean.
On the ground floor, the kitchen, living and dining areas flow into each other and onto exterior terraces.
With the kitchen in the centre, overlooked by a gallery on the floor above, the space is flooded with natural light, and offers up panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, including into a new, bespoke dry-stone-walled garden.
With the kitchen in the centre, overlooked by a gallery on the floor above, the space is flooded with natural light, and offers up panoramic views of the surrounding landscape, including into a new, bespoke dry-stone-walled garden
Part of the extension houses an enormous living area, including a lounge which opens out onto a large dining room flooded with light from floor-to-ceiling windows
The home’s main staircase doubles-up as a gallery and leads up to two bedrooms, an office and a further terrace.
From the skylights to the walls and the cruciform-steel-columns, the angles throughout the house are intentionally skewed and undulating, echoing the topography of the adjacent meadows, and drawing the eye onwards to new and surprising focal points.
Niches, benches and recesses add to the fluidity and playfulness of the space and provide practical areas to display the owner’s art.
Ground and air source heat pumps and solar panels work together to reduce the building’s overall energy consumption, and the new wing has an extensive green roof planted with native wildflowers to reduce rainwater loss.
From the skylights to the walls and the cruciform-steel-columns, the angles throughout the house are intentionally skewed and undulating, echoing the topography of the adjacent meadows, and drawing the eye onwards to new and surprising focal points
Niches, benches and recesses add to the fluidity and playfulness of the space and provide practical areas to display the owner’s art (pictured)
As part of the renovations, the surrounding grounds have also been revitalised with new wildflower meadows and orchards, bordered by hedges that have been repaired and renewed with pollen-rich species of plants (pictured, from above)
As part of the renovations, the surrounding grounds have also been revitalised with new wildflower meadows and orchards, bordered by hedges that have been repaired and renewed with pollen-rich species of plants.
RIBA President, Simon Allford said: ‘This geometric design skillfully fuses together the old with the new – connecting two architectures separated by over 300 years.
‘Every detail has been meticulously considered and exquisitely finished, resulting in a truly remarkable home that enhances its unique setting.’
Architect, Alison Brooks said: ‘It’s a real honour to win RIBA House of the Year amongst an accomplished shortlist of beautiful projects.
Meanwhile the modern and simplistic bedrooms featured huge glass doors leading out onto a glass balcony (pictured)
‘I see private house commissions as a rare opportunity to test new ideas in a concentrated form – they are the built equivalent of writing an essay. So, this accolade is a testament to my client’s belief in the value of architecture and their willingness to embrace the new.
‘I’m grateful for their trust in me and my team of talented architects, in Akera Engineers and the brilliant team of builders and gardeners whose skilful contributions produced this remarkable house and gardens, that together reveal a new way of living in the landscape.’
David and Jenny, the owners of House on the Hill said: ‘Ours was a very protracted project, so the client and architect relationship had to be one of mutual confidence.
The extension house contains the main living area, and kitchen and dining space. There are also two en-suite bedrooms and an office which opens onto a balcony
‘It was always a pleasure working with Alison and her project architects and we learned a great deal in the process.
‘The interplay of the house and its gardens with the wider surrounds provides an ever-changing source of pleasure.
‘The house is in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty and the house, and the landscape complement each other. To return to the house after a spell away is to renew our admiration of the scheme.
To win this important accolade is an endorsement of the creativity of Alison Brooks Architects.’
Meanwhile Chair of the RIBA House of the Year 2021 jury, architect Amin Taha, said: ‘Some decades in the making, the replacement of a very large 1970s shed housing a pool and ancillary spaces with Alison Brooks Architects lower scaled and fragmented form impressed the jury, in a highly competitive year with contenders excelling in sustainability, craftsmanship, reuse, economy of means and thought-provoking sensitivity.
The judges praised how ‘every detail’ of the property had been ‘meticulously considered and exquisitely finished’ which had resulted in ‘a truly remarkable home that enhances its unique setting’
‘House on the Hill balanced these where others may have, for instance reused but at disproportionate cost, or crafted but to no innovative end.
‘The jury felt Alison Brooks Architects had applied their long-researched process of subtly breaking down the rigid and spatially predictable grid with gentle inflection.
‘Adding depth of scale and richness of experience to the existing house, and through the new extension, transitioning with ease into the beautifully landscaped gardens.
‘It is a model of architectural approach applicable to all scales, resulting from the architects’ long practiced ideas and the clients’ successful collaboration.’
THE OTHER HOMES SHORTLISTED FOR GRAND DESIGNS: HOUSE OF THE YEAR
The elegant reinvention of a Victorian terrace: Corner House by 31/44 Architects
Corner House, by 31/44 Architects, has the same elegant proportions as its neighbours in south London, but its rugged concrete detailing and flat roof make it out as the new kid on the block
The south London home was built by a property developer, Sarah, who loved the idea of injecting new life into a London street
Inside there was no trace of Victorian, with three floors of uncluttered space, including this modern kitchen-living space
Corner House, by 31/44 Architects, has the same elegant proportions as its neighbours, but its rugged concrete detailing and flat roof make it out as the new kid on the block.
Meanwhile inside, there was no trace of Victorian, with three floors of uncluttered space.
It was built by a property developer, Sarah, who loved the idea of injecting new life into a London street.
She said: ‘I wanted it to stand out but in an understated way, so that it really fitted with what was here already. The architects designed in the curved corner which mirrors the pub opposite the arches.
Sarah added a whole new 100 metre home at the end of the row, with a lower ground floor containing the main living area with a courtyard at the end.
Meanwhile the second floor had a sitting room and guest bedroom while the master suite at the top of the house.
The judges admired the way the house takes traditional ideas and plays with them. The entrance leads straight into the kitchen diner which is decidedly unVictorian.
The judges admired the way the house takes traditional ideas and plays with them. The entrance leads straight into the kitchen diner which is decidedly un-Victorian (pictured)
Sarah said: ‘Quite often Victorian terraces are a dark tunnel but my vision was to really bring the light in. Being on a corner plot, you’ve got the triple aspect, windows on the side of the building, big doors on either end and roof lights.
‘You can really extend your living space.’
And 21st century functionality is everywhere, with a micro cement floor maximizing the room’s height.
Upstairs, the top floor was given over to a luxurious master suite. Below it, the architect Will Burges built in a conservatory type room.
He said: ‘Because you’re looking along the street, it feels relatively private given you’re in a glazed room and the pavement is right there below us.’
Will and Sarah have deftly sidestepped pitfalls, with Michelle saying: ‘It captures the elegance of the past in a contemporary way.’
The bungalow with a soaring canopy roof designed for disabled children: House for Theo and Oskar by Tigg + Coll Architects
The final long listed property was in the Surrey Hills, with Michelle visiting the House for Theo & Oskar, which was designed by Tigg and Coll architects
The second long listed property was in the Surrey Hills, with Michelle visiting the House for Theo & Oskar, which was designed by Tigg and Coll architects.
What is Duchenne muscular dystrophy?
Duchenne muscular dystrophy is a neuromuscular condition caused by a lack of protein called dystrophin.
Around 100 boys with the serious condition, which causes progressive muscle weakness, are born in the UK each year.
It is a genetic condition and can be inherited.
The condition starts early in childhood and maybe detected when noticing a child has difficulty standing up.
Children with DMD will struggle to walk, climb and run.
The condition causes muscles throughout the body to weaken and waste, including those of the heart and chest.
Source: Muscular Dystrophy Campaign
While from the front, it appeared like any bungalow on the street, the back of the property had been transformed with a soaring wooden canopy roof which reaches out 11metres from out into the garden and into the house.
It brings delight and joy to Theo, 10, and Oskar, eight, who were both born with a rare genetic disease called Duchenne muscular dystrophy.
They live here with their four-year-old brother Lucas and parents Nick and Clara.
Nick said: ‘For us, the house represents the possibility for Theo and Oskar, with the disease they have, and then just getting the most out of life that they can get.
‘What happens to a Duchenne boy, is the muscles slowly waste. By 11 or 12, they’ll be in a wheelchair fulltime. By 18, they will be on a ventilator, probably, of some description. And they normally die in their mid-twenties.’
Clara added: ‘So we live day to day and try to see the enjoyment and joy out of life.’
A fully wheelchair accessible extension was added to the original house, with Theo and Oscar’s rooms opening onto the garden.
Behind is Lucas’ bedroom and a playroom.
Meanwhile the garden room and family room connect the new to the old, where the grown ups have their own sitting room.
Nick and Clara wanted the boys to have fun space which didn’t feel institutional.
The idea of a roof which had the feel of a treehouse with a leaf canopy was suggested by husband and wife architect David Tigg and Rachael Coll.
David said: ‘This whole design, it was about the relationship with the garden.
‘The trees around us and nature as a whole. It shelters, it was bought dappled sunlight through it, it gave shade during the high summer months. It gave a place for the boys to play.’
Rachael said: ‘The way the structure works is you do have these trunks and then this canopy, floating, above.’
Michelle added: ‘It feels very natural and just floats over the top, but it is a massive structure.’
David said: ‘We had a lot of fun with the engineers working out this problem, how can it be delicate but incredible strong.’
The design needed to be strong to support the hoists and slings that Theo and Oskar will need in the future.
Rachael said: ‘It’s following the concept through of moving from inside to outside, and removing all barriers.’
Even when the boys are no longer mobile, they will still be connected to the outside world, with the floors levelled and doorways widened for wheelchair access.
But adapting the house didn’t come cheap. Nick launched a fundraising campaign to try to raise the funds, but didn’t reach his total.
However his campaign did catch the attention of a friend’s partner, Peter McCall, who worked for a large firm of property developers.
Peter said: ‘When I took it forward to my CEO – he has five kids, three sons and I have three sons- you just look at this family and ourselves and…there, for the grace of god, goes any of us. And if we could do something, then we should try to do it.’
Not only did the company provide expert personnel on site for free, but they also contacted all their suppliers asking if they would be willing to contribute.
Peter said: ‘All of them stood up and said, “Absolutely, if you want help, tell us what you need”. It was a genuine surprise, no one backed off.
During construction, Nick, Clara and the boys were living in a log cabin at the bottom of the garden.
Nick confessed it was a ‘difficult’ period, saying: ‘There were tough times. We were in there for 13 months, with five of us, with an outdoor toilet and shower. With quiet desperation we were thinking, “Please hurry up.”
However he added it had all been worth it, saying: ‘It achieved what we hoped it would achieve, an environment for Theo and Oskar to thrive in.’
Clara added: ‘When we see Theodore laughing with his arm in a sling or in a wheelchair, feeling confident – it’s great for what we have. We’ve been very lucky in being unlucky, I would say.’
Michelle continued: ‘This building shows the power of possibility in architecture, combining determination with ingenuity and compassion.’
Ancient crumbling farm building: The Outfarm by TYPE Studio
The next property on the longlist saw Michelle travel to deepest Devon to visit The Outfarm, a barn conversion like no other (pictured)
The next property saw Michelle travel to deepest Devon to visit The Outfarm, a barn conversion like no other.
It keeps the original openings of the building where cattle would go in and out, but inside it has the interiors of a private member’s club.’
It is home to Richard and Dawn, who fell for its romantic charm eight years ago.
Richard said: ‘When we first saw it, we had just glimpsed it through the fog across the fields and it was just this sort of fairytale feel to it. We were quite enchanted, the spirit of the place just got us straight away.’
Dawn said: ‘It’s very castle like.’
Luckily for them, they had a son Tom who could turn their dream into a reality.
It is home to Richard and Dawn, who fell for its romantic charm eight years ago. Their son Tom designed the perfect home for the couple (pictured, the large upstairs room)
He explained: ‘I think a decent bit of architecture is disciplined and restrained. It’s about honesty and expression. To create a home for people you know so well was a joy to do.’
Michelle said: ‘From this side you get an idea of the majesty of this barn.
But when the couple first bought the home, it was far from a habitable building – there was no roof and no floor, with trees growing up inside the ruin.
Richard said: ‘The walls were so solid and it had this feeling of longevity. within a few years it would have been beyond it and the wall would seriously start falling down.
Dawn said: ‘I just thought it had such an incredible feel and I felt so sure that it needed rescuing.’
The layout remains true to the original design, downstairs, where cattle once lived, are a kitchen, two bedrooms and a bathroom.
Meanwhile upstairs, there was now a central core with a long open space unbroken from interior walls.
Michelle called it ‘almost churchlike’, while Richard said: ‘We wanted to retain that barn-like feeling to it.’
In fact, the RIBA judges praised the fact that every new addition to the barn built on the old history.
Richard lived on site in a yurt, while Dawn continued working 200 miles away.
Dawn said: ‘I used to come every Thursday and see how they were progressing, I couldn’t contribute very much but it was very exciting when I got here.’
Richard said: ‘When it was pouring with rain and so much mud, it could get a bit tetchy. But we had enough passion to just get through and get on.
Dawn said: ‘If you worked really hard for something, it means so much more. It’s fantastic sense of achievement.’
Rugged building in the Scottish Highlands: House in Assynt by Mary Arnold-Forster Architects
The second problem-solving longlister defied the challenges of building in the middle of nowhere, with Damian travelling to the North-West coast of Scotland to find it
Accessed only by an 8 mile long single track road, House in Assynt had to be built off site and transported in miniscule sections (pictured, the living room)
The front pod is an open plan living space, while the second pod has a master bedroom with an en-suite and the final pod has an additional bathroom and guestroom (pictured, the master bedroom)
The third problem-solving longlister defied the challenges of building in the middle of nowhere, with Damian travelling to the North-West coast of Scotland to find it.
Accessed only by an 8 mile long single track road, House in Assynt had to be built off site and transported in miniscule sections.
The house is beautifully striking, with a breathtaking interior. It was built as three modules, each with a different function.
The front pod is an open plan living space, while the second pod has a master bedroom with an en-suite and the final pod has an additional bathroom and guestroom.
The owners are Phil and Heather, who discovered the area while holidaying in 2015 and fell in love with it (pictured)
The owners are Phil and Heather, who discovered the area while holidaying in 2015 and fell in love with it.
Phil said: ‘I’ve always had a hankering to have a place somewhere in the middle of nowhere. And this is the middle of nowhere.’
Heather said: ‘There’s definitely none of the attractions of an urban centre.’
Phil continued: ‘A lot of people might say, “Why would you do this?” and the answer is, we just love this wilderness.
‘We had no idea what we wanted, we knew we wanted to do something that felt right with the terrain.’
To save time on site, the house was built in a factory 70 miles away in 13 sections before it was transported to the site where it was assembled in just four days
The builders battled lashing wind and rain to assemble the home in just four days, with the end result being a remarkably efficient building that now conserves energy (pictured)
Heather added; ‘When we met Mary our architect, the first thing she said was it’s going to be a light touch house.’
Phil said: ‘She did have a vision very early on of what could be built, and she turned us onto it. When we came to the see the plot, we met Mary the first day, and she leant down and smelt the ground.’
Meanwhile Mary said: ‘Who am I to break ancient rocks? I’m only here for a while. let’s make a point not to do it. I made a point to fit the building between two headlands without breaking rocks.’
She built the home on stilts, perched on a barely there concrete strip.
It’s a place to destress – but the process of the build was anything but relaxing.
To save time on site, the house was built in a factory 70 miles away in 13 sections. The problem lay in getting the sections to site.
Each module was transported by one driver up a single track road.
Heather said: ‘We saw the first load arriving and we couldn’t quite believe he’d managed to do it.’
The builders battled lashing wind and rain to assemble the home in just four days, with the end result being a remarkably efficient building that now conserves energy.
Even the need for artificial light has been minimalized, where there are floor to ceiling sliding doors and plenty of glass.
Urban house on a plot the size of a London Tube carriage: The Slot House by Sandy Rendel Architects with Sally Rendel
Slot House in London, which was built into a tiny 2.8 meter gap between two other homes, was the first property on the longlist (pictured). It is an excellent example of extremely compact living
The fourth home lay in the dense streets of South London, where houses are so crammed together you could think there was no free space to build anything.
But that’s exactly where Michelle found Slot House, built into a tiny 2.8 meter gap between two other homes thanks to a pared back steel frame and an innovative steel staircase. Kevin praised the home as ‘as glamorous as it is clever.’
It was built by husband-and-wife team Sally and Sandy Rendel, on a tiny scrap of land beside their own house.
They challenged themselves to make a viable home on a plot the size of a London Tube carriage.
Sandy explained: ‘It’s not this grand bit of architecture or anything, it’s the opposite. It’s just a very modest little house. But hopefully it proves we can create something of worth in such a tight space. It has something of quality of it as well.’
Sally said: ‘It’s pleasurable to be in.’
She revealed that before the couple built on the space, there was ‘nothing there’, explaining: ‘It was an access route back and it never had a proper structure on it, definitely not a dwelling.’
When they bought the disused alleyway it came, unbelievably, with planning permission for a three-bedroom family home.
Sandy said: ‘It shouldn’t be a family house, it’s a tiny scrap of land. It was just trying to find the appropriate level of development for the plot.’
Sally added: ‘We were told more than once by developers that we were underdeveloping. But actually, we wanted to make something with some joy, sustainable and lovely to live in.’
The open plan ground floor contained a double height kitchen and living room, while upstairs there was a bedroom, bathroom and study.
Given its compactness, you might expect shoebox proportions inside, with Michelle saying: ‘It’s so much bigger and lighter than you expect it to be.’
Sandy said: ‘I think moments where you can breathe a little bit more was what the aim was.’
The RIBA judges celebrated the way the materials had been left exposed throughout the house. To make the most of every tiny space, the timber jousts had been left bare and nothing was plaster boarded or skimmed.
Another master stroke was the use of a slimline steel frame to build the skeleton of the home.
Peter Laidler, the structural engineer, explained: ‘Conventional wisdom to build a house would be to build brick walls up each side, but you’d immediately lose half a metre. The steel frame is really critical because the columns are only 77mm.’
The frame had to be craned in in enormous sections, each of which was just shy of the gap.
Sandy said: ‘All the connections exposed are fully welded. Even the orientation for the steels, just to try to tease out a couple of inches.’
To minimise the structure, they fixed the staircase onto the steel structure too. Upstairs, the mezzanine study hung over the living room below.
Space saving ideas even include using brick slips on the outside of the building, which are a third of the thickness of a traditional brick. They are handcrafted from clay, biscuit fired, dipped in pewter and gold glaze.
Building the house took over four years, with Sally and Sandy fitting it in around their day job.
Sally confessed it wasn’t always easy, adding: ‘It was a pressured time but we were in it together so we could share it.’
A 1960s-inspired water tower in rural Norfolk: The Water Tower by Tonkin Liu
The disused historic Water Tower in Norfolk was purchased by its owners for the equivalent value of scrap metal
The next long-listed house on the programme was the 1960s-inspired water tower, by Tonkin Liu.
The building was inspired by 1960s sci-fi and was dressed with industrial steel cladding, vertical glass walls and a control tower living room fit for the Thunderbirds.
It was the passion project of Dennis, a photographer, and Misa, a costume designer, who both lived in the tower.
They bought the long-redundant water tower when it was a rusting hulk, and gave it new life.
Dennis said: ‘I’ve never been afraid of taking something apart to repair it. My father was a TV engineer, he was always taking things apart and putting things back together. This was quite a big thing though.’
Misa added: ‘My parents were both artists and actually, we used to go to the dump together as a amoily outing. We would pick up things to repurpose to turn into sculptures.’
The building doesn’t fall down thanks to the ingenious wooden staircase which acts as an anchor for the house
Standing tall within a setting of fields of Barley, the entire structure of the Water Tower has been ingeniously engineered to account for the absent weight of water and the additional distribution of new accommodation loads
On top was a giant roof terrace, while below, on what was the old water tank, was the open plan kitchen and diner.
Below that, were two double en-suite bedrooms, while there was also a set of stairs leading upwards to the living space.
Michelle compared the building to ‘a Bond-lair’, with Dennis confessing: ‘It’s a very very exposed spot. When the wind is up that strong, the rain is usually coming with it and it’s horizontal. You are splashed about and blown about in every direction. You’re really in there.
‘It is exciting. Thunder, lightning, storms. It does wobble about in the wind.’
The building doesn’t fall down thanks to the ingenious wooden staircase which acts as an anchor for the house.
It was made from 182 blocks made from superstrong timber, layers of wood glued alternatively at right angles. They form a giant corkscrew that helps to pin the tower to the ground.
Dennis said: ‘Each was numbered individually and labelled.’
The roof was praised by the judges, as were the floor-to-ceiling windows in the bedrooms, and the living area in the main tank itself.
The main space featured a concrete polished floor, a wooden kitchen and a 21st century wrap-around window.
Michelle said: ‘There are bits of structure on display everywhere but you’ve somehow made it feel so beautiful…it fits beautifully.’
At night lights within the water tower reveal a bright and comfortable interior, with plenty of space to live
Dennis and his son acted as the main contractors and did the demolition work themselves on the property.
Dennis said: ‘I was physically here quite a lot, we converted a shipping container and I stayed there at the weekends. One day I came out and I looked up and thought, “I’ve really taken on too much. This is too much”.’
For their architect Mike Tonkin, he said: ‘When you begin, you want to understand who the people are, what their desire are. Dennis definitely had a taste for thunderbirds, that was important to him.’
But it was also important to Mike that whatever they did would be embraced by the local people nearby.
He said: ‘A lot of them had climbed it as a kid. Whatever we did had to be interesting. Dennis had an open day and like 1,000 people turned up. They all wanted to see inside.’
Michelle said: ‘When they took on this build, it was quite a gamble….reinventing a local landmark, not knowing how much it would cost…but sometimes, you have to take a risk to see somethings true potential.’
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