Inspirational homes in this year's RIBA House of the Year shortlist

This year’s RIBA House of the Year Awards have recently been announced and the shortlisted properties are well worth looking at in detail on The Jury Chair, Dido Milne, said of this year’s shortlist: “This year’s RIBA House of the Year shortlist includes a range of exciting new typologies, including a rethink of the family terraced house and a model for collective rural living.Here we have everything. From homes inserted into tight urban sites and new life breathed into existing structures, to detached rural homes where the architect has been given free rein to reimagine the baronial hall or lakeside retreat.

Localism is a recurring theme, with architects engaging with the local vernacular without being slaves to tradition, and local sourcing of materials targeting both embodied and operational carbon to deliver genuinely sustainable design.

One of the houses that caught my attention, following on from my previous article, about "Less is More”, is Hundred Acre Wood, in Arygll and Bute by Denizen Works.

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It is at first glance somewhat austere, but looking in detail, it is clearly a highly appropriate response to its site.

Ric BlenkharnRic Blenkharn
Ric Blenkharn

In an unrivalled isolated position overlooking Loch Awe, the design draws from Scotland’s architectural heritage. Innovatively clad in grey harling, but using recycled TV screens, the building evokes a fortress standing proud in the landscape.

Windows are discretely position, seemingly at random, but placed specifically to focus on breathtaking views. The interior is a triumph. Perhaps too bare for many, but I can imagine the sense of awe entering each subsequent space.

The feeling of height, light and an incredibly restricted palette of materials, give an almost monastic reverence. Interiors free from clutter and instead space to truly appreciate for what it is.

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It was designed and constructed over an eight-year period and the main challenge of the brief was how to create an architecture appropriate for the setting which contained no other built context.

Early conversations for the house focused on the history of Scottish architecture, from brochs and tower houses to Mackintosh, whilst drawing inspiration from the sculptural works of Eduardo Chillida.

A sense of protective outer shell was key as a response to the exposed site and harsh weather. To me the building is a tremendous response to both brief and setting,.

Creating simple interior spaces with a minimal palette of materials help create rooms of calm. Placing windows to focus on contained views help encourage a sense of place and root a house in its immediate environs.

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Of the other shortlisted properties, I’m drawn to Saltmarsh House by Niall McLaughlin Architects. Over many years, McLaughlin have produced some exquisitely detailed buildings and Saltmarsh is no exception.

RIBA note that it is “located on the Isle of Wight with uninterrupted views across Bembridge Harbour and is a stunning example of modern architectural design."

I agree. Visit the RIBA’s website for more details and pictures.

Ric Blenkharn, Bramhall, Blenkharn, Leonard archiects, Malton,