The WAN House of the Year Award 2016 is the longest running WAN AWARDS category, and this year marks its tenth anniversary. Established to celebrate projects that not only deliver originality and quality, but also display a commitment to creating spaces that improve people’s lives, the award highlights approaches that push the creative possibilities of house design.
The submitted designs encompassed a wide range of projects and approaches. A varied longlist of 33 houses were studied by the jury, who were faced with the difficult task of selecting a shortlist.
This year’s judging panel of world-class experts, selected for their passion for great design, were: Chantal Wilkinson, Director of Wilkinson King Architects, Gillian Horn, Partner of Penoyre & Prasad, David Mikhail, Director of Mikhail Riches, Francisco Leiva, Co-founder of Grupo Aranea, Tom Kundig, Principal and Owner of Olson Kundig Architects, and Marc Koehler, Founder of Mark Koehler Architects.
The panel assessed the entries based on criteria such as originality, innovation, form, function, sustainability and context, while testing the effectiveness of the each project in relation to the client brief and the use of innovative and original features. After much discussion, the jury agreed on a shortlist of six, listed below in no particular order:
House with a Brick Veil in New Delhi, India by Studio Lotus
Built within a congested locality in central Delhi, this project seeks to negotiate the fine line of privacy and connection with neighbourhoods. Posing a design challenge common to increasing unplanned urbanisation in developing nations, the site is situated within an area characterised by major roads and scant available views. The brief was primarily to create a calm oasis, comprised of three apartments – a duplex for a retired couple, and two smaller flats for their married children and families. A 345 mm thick “brick veil” gives the project its name, acting as a buffer between the home and the city. Chantal singled out the design’s efficient response to the challenge, stating: “The resolution of this house deals cleverly with its dense urban context and its complex brief.” With courtyards on either side, rooms are laid around the core of living spaces. Marc appreciated this approach, saying: “The combination of vernacular and traditional elements within a modern layout, and outdoor and indoor spaces, results in a complex and hybrid yet inviting and human atmosphere.” Gillian praised the project as “refreshingly different.”
Tin House in London, United Kingdom by Henning Stummel Architects Ltd
The tin roofs of this courtyard house immediately catch the eye, in a design the jury singled out for its distinctiveness and coherence. Chantal said: “I can’t help myself from liking the roofs, and the fact that they have used all one material.” Set in a Victorian neighbourhood, and overlooked by all sides, the design is a composition of inward-facing pavilions creating an ensemble around a calm pool of water. Each pavilion accommodates a room while secondary spaces such as washrooms, storage and stairs are concealed within the double walls in between the pavilions. The roof-lights can be opened, and on warm days the stack effect ensures that fresh cool air is drawn in from above the pool. The living room has a fireplace with a wood burning stove, and the flue is a tall brick chimney which tapers to resemble a campanile overlooking the ensemble. The jury appreciated the secluded and inviting nature of the design, with Francisco observing: “A collection of patio rooms, a series of views to the sky, are some of the characteristics of this hidden house.”
Casa Caldera in San Rafael Valley, Arizona, United States by DUST
This project is an off-grid house located in a remote landscape, facing the challenges of a harsh environment and the need for the provision of electricity on site. Water is sourced from a well, while solar power is used for minimal electrical and appliance needs. Cooling is provided by natural cross ventilation through the zaguan and window openings, and wood fuel sourced on the property provides heating. Chantal noted: “The clever use of the zaguan provides generosity in plan whilst bringing in natural light and ventilation.” Almost entirely custom built, many features were fabricated and installed by DUST, including the Scoria walls. The specific method of creating the walls is primarily a result of a pioneer builder named Paul Schwam, who has developed his own mixing and delivery system. The jury responded to the incorporation of technical innovation with a strong design aesthetic. Marc said: “In a time where space, energy and materials become scarce, the modesty and intelligence of this design can be an example for a new way of thinking about the power of architecture.”
MM HOUSE in Palma de Mallorca, Spain by OHLAB
This house was designed according to PASSIVHAUS standards to achieve maximum energy efficiency. The façade has an exterior insulation system that increases the insulation thickness up to 15cm and guards all joints to avoid any thermal bridge. The pitched roofs have a method for collecting rainwater, three for irrigation and general use while the fourth collects water for consumption. During their first winter in the house, the residents had no need to turn on the heating, and used only water collected on site. Gillian was pleased to see “the sustainability really integrated properly into the architecture, actually making the architecture better.” David agreed, saying: “I think that it is beautifully handled.” The project optimizes the living arrangement through four boxes, which can be used together or independently. Each box is placed carefully on the ground and rotate on its axis to find the optimum orientation for use. Francisco appreciated this “rich and straightforward play of white volumes, which reinterprets the Mediterranean construction traditions.” Marc stated: “The high ambition level for energy efficiency has been successfully integrated in an outspoken contemporary design.”
Landscape House in Nantes, France by MABIRE REICH Architectes
The theme of the project developed for the “landscape house” involves the restitution of an exterior space lost through extending the building. MABIRE REICH designed successive terraces connected by ramps, which open up to the patio and the landscape of the block’s small urban gardens, set against the scenery of the southern shores of the Loire. David praised the project’s integration with the surroundings, saying: “It feels like it blends in with the construction of the area, rather than being a kind of bland modernism.” Various materials are used to reference landscape, through graining of the plywood, motifs drawn by the rain on the metallic structure during construction, the moiré effect of the resin and the pattern of the cement tiles. The judges enjoyed the cosy and liveable overall effect of the design, which Marc described as “transforming a mundane suburban house into a contemporary design Valhalla,” going on to state: “It offers a sequence of original and comfortable spaces and playful material applications. This authentic house elevates every-day life.”
Oak Pass House in Beverly Hills, United States by Walker Workshop
This property's topography and landscape, which most notably include over 130 protected Coast Live Oak Trees, were the primary drivers for the house’s design. In order to showcase and amplify the site's inherent beauty, the building’s mass is buried into the hillside, with only a one-storey pavilion above grade as it unfolds along the ridge. The jury appreciated the project’s subtle integration into its surroundings, with Gillian commenting: “This house works beautifully with the landscape, in parts hollowing out and in parts stretching over it, working with and complimenting it.” Bisecting the house, a seventy-five foot infinity lap pool creates continuity between the trees and their reflection in the water, accentuating the vastness of the landscape and extending its most striking characteristics across the property. Francisco praised the design as an “elegant, sober and refined construction of an inhabited landscape. Oak is the main character: time seems to stop in its reflections.” The jury also appreciated the ‘journey’ through the house, with David stating: “It’s about scale, incident and delight and an architectural adventure as you walk through it.”
The jury also wished to commend Gallop House in Singapore by FORMWERKZ ARCHITECTS. Located off a quiet cur-de-sac of Gallop Park, this house was built for a family of five, with guest rooms for relatives. The form of the two-storey bungalow is a simple narrow rectangular plan arranged on a north/south axis along the contours of Cluny Hill with a swimming pool projecting out to the west. Marc praised the relationship between the living and outside space, saying: “An open central living space and terrace is sandwiched between two more introverted volumes, resulting in a radical transparency and fluid connection with the garden. I also highly respect the quality and control over the material details.” Gillian considered the building “well considered and executed.”
Thank you to all involved in the WAN House of the Year Award 2016 and congratulations to the six finalists of this category. From the shortlist, an overall winner will be announced on 1st November 2016.
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