A contemporary vision of the English country house: Caring Wood wins RIBA House of the Year 2017

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is pleased to announce that Caring Wood by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell is the RIBA House of the Year 2017. The prestigious award is presented annually to the best new house or house extension designed by an architect in the UK.

Caring Wood re-imagines the traditional English country house. It speaks of its time and place: with a contemporary design that has clear links to the rural vernacular.

Inspired by the traditional oast houses of Kent, the agricultural buildings for kilning hops, Caring Wood revives local building crafts and traditions including locally sourced handmade peg clay tiles, locally quarried ragstone and coppiced chestnut cladding. The house comprises four towers, with interlinking roofs like markers in the landscape, echoing other oast houses in the distance.

RIBA President Ben Derbyshire said:

“I am delighted that Caring Wood has been named RIBA House of the Year 2017. It’s a house built for multiple generations of a growing family and allows the owner’s daughters, their husbands and their children to reside under one roof – cleverly accommodating their desire to be together and their desire to be apart. This ambitious house explores new architectural methods, materials and crafts and allows us to question the future of housing and the concept of multi-generational living. I’ve no doubt many of the ideas displayed at Caring Wood will influence UK housing for many years to come.”

James Macdonald-Wright, Macdonald Wright Architects said:

“Sustainability in architectural practice is expected, but I believe regionalism, craft and the interpretation of the vernacular are also important. I’m delighted that, in Caring Wood, they are being recognized. This project proves that, by joining together, small practices can do big things. It was made possible by the combination of an incredibly dedicated team and a uniquely supportive client. I’d like to thank them.”

Niall Maxwell, Rural Office said:

“We’ve been winning awards for our projects since we were founded 9 years ago, but we never anticipated winning such a prestigious award so soon. This would never have happened without James inviting us to work with him on Caring Wood. Collaboration with many talented people enabled us to realise the design for this contemporary country house. This demonstrates what small practices are capable of when given the chance by enlightened clients.”

RIBA House of the Year 2017 jury chair, Deborah Saunt, said:

“Beyond the impression of sublime craftsmanship and spatial grandeur this house offers, Caring Wood leads us to fundamentally question how we might live together in the future.

“At a time when we are increasingly atomised, individually preoccupied and lost in personalised digital worlds, designing homes where families come together – in their many permutations – is an increasingly important aim. Whilst this might seem to be a particular brief for one extended family, it is one taking huge risks in asking how we collectively might live inter-generationally as social structures evolve.

“Here we find a family enjoying each other’s time and company, but also enabling timeless layers of support to emerge between generations. Grandparents and grandchildren exchanging experiences and enlivening each other’s sense of self, parents finding a place to catch up alone as children play. Siblings together with cousins, building the foundation for mutual support for years to come, the network that builds a strong society of mutual respect.

“This is a brave project offering a new prototype. In deploying homes that cater for extended families across urban, suburban and rural sites, this may offer solutions not only to the country’s housing crisis – where families might live together longer- but also by providing care solutions for young and old alike, freeing people from punishing costs throughout their lifetimes.

“This intimate house delights in the way it beautifully manipulates space and avoids grandiosity. Unobtrusive within its landscape, it builds on the pattern of settlement centuries old. This is a house for all ages.”

Also announced this evening was the seventh and final home shortlisted for the RIBA House of the Year: Hidden House in London by Coffey Architects. The full shortlist for the RIBA House of the Year 2017 is:

  • Caring Wood by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell
  • Shawm House by MawsonKerr Architects
  • Ness Point by Tonkin Liu
  • 6 Wood Lane by Birds Portchmouth Russum
  • The Quest by Strom Architects
  • Newhouse of Auchengree by Ann Nisbet Studio
  • Hidden House by Coffey Architects

The RIBA House of the Year 2017 is sponsored by Paint & Paper Library.