WAN House of the Year Award 2015

Lydia O’Callaghan
13 Oct 2015

Six extraordinary projects shortlisted

The WAN House of the Year Award celebrates the most ambitious and inspiring single-family homes that have been designed by architects across the globe. Highlighting projects that have continued to push the creative envelope by designing ever more stylish yet sustainable houses that balance innovation with efficiency and functionality with aesthetic rigour. 

The 28 longlisted projects were analysed recently by a panel of expert judges. Considering a number of factors: originality; innovation; form; sustainability; context – the jury looked closely for: how the architects design addressed the key elements of the client brief; how the building had evolved in design and use of materials; and lastly, how it's been integrated within its context and/or community.

To reflect the quality and precision of entries to the WAN House of the Year Award, we assembled a panel of the most eminent names within the architectural community. This year’s jury panel were: Kristian Hyde, Co-Founder of Hyde + Hyde Architects, Kieran McGonigle, Co-Founder of McGonigleMcGrath, Chantal Wilkinson, Director of Wilkinson King Architects, and Maria Hurtado de Mendoza, Principal at estudio.entresitio.

After an engaging debate, the judges arrived at a decision on the six shortlisted projects, which are listed below in no particular order. They all agreed that they all had a strong sense of concept that was carried through to the architecture of each building. 

L3P Architekten ETH FH SIA AG in Switzerland by Trübel.  

Inspired by the surrounding vineyards, the architects and engineer developed a structure of black-painted reinforced concrete; its configuration evoking a grapevine, with the trunk of the vine being the solid load-bearing wall at the centre of the frame, from which floors grow like branches and leaves. Sections of the glazed façade project from exterior walls like large, ripe grapes. This project certainly caught the attention of Kristian Hyde, who commented: “This project really stood out to me as an incredible work of architecture. As architects we know how difficult it is to execute a building with that level of detail and make it look so simple. It’s architectural poetry.” The house required some unusual collaborative solutions. For example, the bookcase does not stem from the need for a bookcase, but rather from a structural challenge. It is made of concrete and, besides storing books, it also provides the central wall with horizontal bracing. Without the shelves, the central wall would have had to be much thicker.

Balint House in Spain by Fran Silvestre Arquitectos. 

Chantal Wilkinson began by saying: “this is a well resolved project, it’s very crisp and simple” with Kieran McGonigle agreeing, commenting: “the quality of detailing is immaculate.” Fran Silvestre Arquitectos purposely avoided generating a geometry that was parallel to the edges of the rectangular plot. Instead they aimed to create the illusion of a building set within a plot with no limits. The interior of the house is articulated through a central void. Service spaces, installations and the kitchen are used to ‘square the circle’ of the curved trace of the lower floor to create the required orthogonal inner space which opens onto the garden. The living spaces on the upper floor, and the basement provide the house with further bounded spaces. “Visually, it’s stunning”, commented Kristian Hyde. 

Compact Karst House in Slovenia by dekleva gregoric arhitekti. 

All the judges were taken with the simplicity of this house. The project originates from the characteristics of the area’s anonymous, traditionally built architecture.  Yet the Karst House simultaneously establishes the relationship between conventional regional styles and the building’s contemporary interpretation – a synthesis of modern and traditional domains. This is achieved by respectfully redefining a traditional stone Karst house into a compact, mono-material, pitched roof volume for contemporary countryside living in this region. “There’s a nice warmth about it, even though it’s made of stone,” commented Kieran McGonigle, with Kristian Hyde going on to say: “It’s feels like the architect has a great control of his craft.” Inside, the wooden volumes, which contain the master bedroom, children’s bedroom and bathroom, provide intimacy, while the rest of the space operates as public open space spreading out to the landscape through three large square windows. The ceiling is formed by the concrete slab of the roof construction, and the formwork was made from wooden planks. All interior dry walls are made from three-layer spruce plywood panels, oiled with transparent oil. The horizontal slab is of spruce cross-laminated timber.

Levring House in the United Kingdom by Jamie Fobert Architects Ltd. 

This scheme remakes the formerly vacant corner plot of a typical London mews in the Bloomsbury Conservation area. Chantal Wilkinson was first to comment on how well it sat in the existing environment. The new house was developed around a contemporary reinterpretation of the London lightwell. In spite of site restrictions, the whole house is filled with natural light and a generous sense of space, while maintaining a modest street façade. The exterior is tastefully clad in fine quality brick and lightly-finished bronze. Kristian Hyde felt it had a masculine feel whilst Kieran McGonigle said: “It was beautifully detailed.”

With its third storey almost invisible from the street and another level entirely hidden in the basement, the house’s discreet exterior belies the 600sqm of living space within. Chantal Wilkinson commented: “The terrace is lovely, with the high wall and the view of the trees. You imagine a world beyond it” with Kristian Hyde going on to say: “It’s wonderfully executed.”

Alps villa in Italy by Camillo Botticini Architect.

The house stands on a clearing in the trees, 700m above sea level. Green meadows and trees frame the outer coating of oxidised copper and Accoya wood - the only elements that, together with extensive glazing, are the artifice in counterpoint to the villa’s natural setting. Kieran McGonigle was quick to comment on how attractive the form was, with Chantal Wilkinson agreeing, saying: “I like it very much.” The architects wanted an environmentally and friendly home, so to satisfy environmental requirements, the design incorporates a geothermal system and ventilated walls. This creates natural ventilation, even though the deep walls that protect against cold and heat help promote very low heating costs - almost to the point of zero energy consumption and pollution. Kristian Hyde commented on the look of the building: “Initially, the outside staircase caught me - it’s a beautiful way to transcend the landscape, where you rise above it on these slender sheets of steel. I like the way you can see the mountains in the building’s roof. It belongs in the landscape.”

Dune House in the Netherlands by Marc Koehler Architects.  

The house is half-sunk into the dunes on the island of Terschelling, rising out of the landscape to offer breath-taking views out over the North Sea.  The result is a ‘wooden diamond’ integrated into the landscape that is experienced very differently from each of its sides. “It’s a strong contender, because of how it relates to the existing vernacular,” states Kristian Hyde, with Chantal Wilkinson going on to say: “I like the way it’s sunken into the dune, it’s almost like it’s got its head down to the wind.” Every material was chosen after close examination of the colours and textures found in the environment. Inside, the in-situ concrete of the floors above ground are pigmented in a sandy colour that mimics the dunes and gives the main areas of the house a warmer atmosphere, strengthening the relation between interior and exterior. The construction method aims to respect the environment, making use of modular prefabricated cross-laminated timber panels. Kieran McGonigle commented: “It fits well in the environment and externally it’s very refined.” 

On top of the six shortlisted schemes, the judges also wanted to select one project in particular as ‘Commended’ as they felt this project needed to be recognised for pushing the boundaries in house design. This project was entitled Unfinished House in Japan by Yamazaki Kentaro Design Workshop. Rather than imposing the architects own space plan for the house, they let the client sift through different ideas and assess their own needs together in a hands-on study. The first point they decided was that the house should allow for flexibility within daily life, without defining or limiting the future of the family. The architects presented a building made by arranging four boxes, each divided into two ‘layers’, around a central space in which the family can gather that acts as a hub inside the home. Kieran McGonigle felt the project was strong conceptually, brave and “felt like an experiment”. Kristian Hyde said: “You can feel the architects sitting around the table with the clients, playing with the typologies. This inspires me to think about what a house could be.” Maria Hurtado de Mendoza was particularly taken with this project, saying: “This project further pushes the boundary of the home away from conventions, and still operates from the very core of disciplinary interests. Clear, neat, proposal with an equally clear and neat construction strategy; a great space at a very low cost. A perfect example of how to make the ordinary, extraordinary.”

Congratulations to all of the six shortlisted projects and the commended project in this category. All of the shortlisted schemes will be exhibited at the VOLA showroom in London on the 14th October. Please RSVP if you wish to attend - spaces are limited so please respond promptly to ensure attendance. We hope to see you there. 


Lydia O’Callaghan

Awards Coordinator


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