‘Oast house on steroids’ wins RIBA House of the Year 2017

A house inspired by Kent’s traditional oast houses – buildings designed for drying hops prior to brewing – has won the Royal Institute of British Architects’s house of the year award.

Image: James Morris

Caring Wood, situated near Ulcombe in Kent and comprised of four towers with interlinking roofs, was announced as the winner during Channel 4’s Grand Designs: House of the Year, presented by Kevin McCloud, Damion Burrows and Michelle Ogundehin, which aired last night.

Designed by architects James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell, the building is inspired by Kentish oast houses which are a common sight throughout the county.

Oast houses can be double or single storey and consist of one or more kilns which were used to dry the hops. The freshly picked hops were spread out on perforated ‘drying floors’ and were dried by the hot air rising from a fire below.

Although they were not always constructed in this way, Kentish oasts are known for their distinctive ’roundel kilns,’ an element that has been used in the design of Caring Wood.

The RIBA house of the year is given to the best new house designed by an architect in the UK.

According to RIBA: “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”.

Local building techniques were implemented in its construction including the use of locally-sourced, handmade peg clay tiles, locally-quarried ragstone and coppiced chestnut cladding.

Described as “an oast house on steroids”, Caring Wood is home to three generations of the same family and took seven years to build. It spans 1,400sq metres of interior space and includes private accommodation for each family, as well as a grand piano complete with a space for an audience of 50, and an art gallery.

The 2017 judging panel consisted of Deborah Saunt, DSDHA, (jury chair); Richard Murphy, Richard Murphy Architects, 2016 RIBA House of the Year winner; Sandra Coppin, Coppin Dockray Architects; Sebastian Cox, Sebastian Cox Studio, and Jenny Eclair, writer, comedian and client of 2005 Manser Medal winner Stealth House.

Jury chair, Deborah Saunt, explained why Caring Wood deserved the accolade: “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.

“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,” she added.

3 Responses to “‘Oast house on steroids’ wins RIBA House of the Year 2017”

  1. Lewis White says:

    Nice, informative article. Lovely building.

  2. John Gamble says:

    Now that certainly is an “an oast house on steroids”! Deservedly won too. Such a unique piece of architecture and I’m not surprised it took 7 years to build!

  3. Marc says:

    yes that is a great piece of architecture. Definitely deserves the award.

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