Taking a closer look at the Berkshire and Buckinghamshire projects that impressed the Royal Institute of British Architects
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has been celebrating outstanding work for over 180 years. Their awards and prizes are regarded internationally as a mark of excellence, recognising the best architecture, architects, research and students.
Some 13 projects have been awarded RIBA South Awards, and below we see why four across Berkshire and Buckinghamshire really caught the eye.
KH House is a residential project by Delvendahl Martin Architects involving the extension of an existing Grade II listed farmhouse in an Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty.
The RIBA jury report had this to say about the project: “From the moment you arrive at KH House, the quality of what lies within is evident. Gracefully adjoining the Grade II listed building, the new element holds off the old with an elegant, glazed connection and delicate concrete details that immediately evidence a thoughtful lightness of touch.
“The traditionally constructed flint spine wall references the listed building and is beautifully crafted. The flintwork is expressed internally through the linking passageway between old and new, imbuing the physical connection with tactility. This is a plasterboard-free extension that is both sensory and beautiful. Whilst the primary entrance remains through the listed building, the flint spine wall and immaculately conceived concrete steps pique interest and encourage entrance through the pavilion instead. The glazed gable and long vista do draw you inwards.
“Upon entering, the eye immediately goes up to the roof whose curved oak beams are a triumph. Locally crafted using French oak (as English oak would not have offered deep enough section sizes), the inspiration is taken from the adjacent 15th century barn interior. The gnarled oak beams and trusses are organic in shape, crafted with functional beauty. The asymmetric sloping roof, lined in oak, achieves an almost spiritual quality that feels timeless yet contemporary. Externally, the roof is lined in copper and the architects have painstakingly considered every detail. The narrowing of the roof at the gable ends which house sculptural copper water chutes (emptying into the pond) is a beautiful touch that many would not have had the skill, ingenuity, or dedication to achieve.
“Internally, the room is one long volume with a kitchen that reads as a joinery insertion. The roofline is unbroken, allowing the volume to be read in its entirety. The building opens to the southern garden and river view, with three-metre high glazed doors set behind deep pre-cast concrete fin walls supporting the roof. Once opened, the connection to the landscape is reinforced further. The building delicately hovers above the lake below.”
Up for a RIBA Regional Award, Regional Project Architect of the Year and Regional Award Short List, the work of 6a Architects certainly is worthy of all the praise that has come its way for the MK Gallery project.
As the jury report highlights, this was no easy task. “This is a challenging project that has been beautifully crafted. A high level of research, interrogation, collaboration and consultation from an enthusiastic team has delivered a building and facility that remains true to the ethos of the original masterplan and aesthetic.
“Existing interior spaces have been opened up and reconfigured to provide a better user experience and flexibility while passing through to other facilities, including the new performance space. The reworking of the original gallery spaces, with a new window to the plaza and combined with the new galleries, provides an enfilade connection through all the galleries to the Milton Keynes parkland beyond. The use of two colour palettes, extracted from the original MK concepts, provides clear wayfinding whilst also reinforcing the original idea of the muted picturesque against the vibrant cosmopolitan. This idea also features in the use of colour and materials on the building externally. The new galleries are clad in reflective materials which are either solid or perforated, so that they appear light or disappear.
“Reinterpreting the original collaborators’ ideas, brought through to this latest design – colours, fonts, materials, and street furniture, to the extent of finding an original ‘pointing finger’ gate and incorporating it into the street landscaping – brings out the authenticity of the project. It’s another level of project team commitment to designing a building for now and the future.”
The Narula House
Located on the banks of the river Loddon, a tributary of the Thames near Wargrave in Berkshire, this was a project taken on by John Pardey Architects. “Narula sits on a stunning plot on a bend in the River Thames,” says the jury report. “Accessed from a long private road, the plot sits in flood zone 3b and floods periodically up to 1.2m. As a reminder of this, a dinghy is on show in the undercroft of the house.
“The external steel staircase appears both elegant and durable; somewhat akin to embarking a ship. The crafted front door opens into the long corridor space which creates dramatic tension. The house is an elevated box, eroded between the living and sleeping wings to create a partly covered courtyard space. This is a welcome move, given that physical connection to the garden below is difficult and allows the client to be in the landscape and enjoy the stunning setting.
“The long form is an elegant parti, with open plan living, dining and cooking to the eastern end, and all the sleeping accommodation and bathrooms to the western end. The influence of the client is clear in the morning terrace and view as well as the interior details which enhance the architecture beautifully.
“The living space is completely glazed to the south with a deep overhang to prevent excessive solar gain. The parti is an extruded raised volume in counterpoint to the flat landscape. This is without a doubt a beautiful house and worthy of a RIBA Award.”
Samarkand, Great Missenden
Napier Clarke Architects completed this project in Great Missenden back in 2019. “This is a well-considered reordering and updating of a mid-century detached house which had been previously extended, but which did not function as a sustainable or contemporary living environment,” states the jury report. “The client should be commended for working with the architect on choosing the option of reimagining the existing house and making it their home, rather than knocking it down and starting again (and saving the VAT cost). The context of the village is a typical mix of houses from different periods and styles, and now it has this as a contemporary addition which sits comfortably in its plot.
“A number of simple external changes – including brick cleaning and repointing, overcladding, dropping windowsill levels and relocating the entrance to the new glazed link between the original house and its previous extension – have significantly updated the aesthetics of the building. Internally, the arrangement of open plan spaces flows through and around the ground floor, while sliding walls allow the occupants to close off areas when desired. The first floor has used the glazed link to separate the principal parents’ bedroom accommodation and the children’s or guest areas. The feeling of openness is characterised by the successful use of a limited selection of materials that run throughout the design, cleanly detailed and executed.”
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