A candyfloss-coloured beach hut constructed against swirling sand and coastal winds, and a mischievous take on the traditional farmhouse have been shortlisted tonight as finalists in the Grand Designs House of the Year Awards 2022.
Presented by architectural guru Kevin McCloud, the first episode of the seventh walked viewers through five projects categorised as “exceptionally hard to build,” and “the SAS of the architectural world.”
In the long list was a glorified and stylised 1960s bungalow which would have been at home in the hit TV show Mad Men and a DIY eco-home in East Stirlingshire.
But, at the end of the episode the panel of judges from RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects) selected a pink concrete beach hut in East Sussex, only accessible across the dunes, and a playful red brick farmhouse in rural Dorset, with bright green eaves and a staircase which is “nuts”, to go through the final (7 December).
The judges described Seabreeze as “a unique interpretation of a beach house, designed to withstand the harsh coastal environment,” and the Red House as “full of delight, innovation, pragmatism and eccentricity.”
The other categories to come later in the series are breath-taking transformation of existing buildings, ground-breaking ideas and exceptional craftsmanship. The judges will whittle the long list down from the four categories to reveal seven finalists. Throughout the four-week journey, McCloud is joined by design expert and author Michelle Ogundehin, architect Damion Burrows and conservation architect Natasha Huq.
Here are the two winners of the first episode and the projects they left behind in their wake.
FINALIST 1: Sea Breeze, East Sussex
Ideally, to build a new home a plot should be roomy, with plenty of access down the side and back and with shelter to continue working through all seasons. The first of tonight’s ‘exceptionally hard to build’ homes had none of these. This pink take on a beach hut is on a site down a windswept and exposed path on the south coast. In fact, the nearest road is 100m awards and the house can only be access by walking over the sand. The wind can get up to 80 to 90 miles an hour, whipping the sand up, explained the architect, Rob Pollard.
So, they constructed scaffolding to totally enclose the plot as they erected the building. It was wrapped head-to-toe in micro fibre concrete to create a sealed envelope and was designed with completely flush windows and doors so there are no nooks for the sand to collect. The one and a half storey house has an open plan living, kitchen and dining area at the front with dual aspect views over the beach. The materials nod to the surroundings with terrazzo flooring that looks like shingle and Eucalyptus handcrafted units rather than the more typical driftwood.
Acoustically robust, the house is completely silent even when a storm is raging outside. And to while away such wet afternoons, the property has its own luxury spa at the back. “Glamorous and lavish but not ostentatious,” says McCloud on the voiceover. “It doesn’t brag but belongs to the sand dunes overlooking the sea.”
FINALIST 2: The Red House
David Kohn Architects
As Burrows turns down a quiet lane in rural Dorset he is met with an unusual and playful red brick house, showcasing a variety of masonry patterns running in different directions, an oversized chimney and an exaggerated roof with bright green eaves.
A local said (loudly and in earshot of the owners) that there could not have been a more inappropriate use of the plot but for householder Edward (and his partner and daughter) the house is designed to look like a piece of post-modern art. “If it had disappeared into the landscape, it would have failed,” he says.
The inside is equally as demonstrative with a giant, curving staircase made of bent pieces of ash which winds up into the ceiling.
There’s a more grounded reason behind the layout and design which has wide corridors, no doors, flush flooring, accessible light fittings and a lift. There is degenerative disease within both families so this is avant-garde property has also been future proofed.
Chiles Evans + Care Architects
Tucked away in a remote corner of Derbyshire is a 55-year-old bungalow which has been renovated to celebrate its 1960s’ style rather than dilute it. A local couple inherited the home and wrestled it back from the brink of disrepair. The windows were rotting, the roof was close to collapse and there was very little insulation. Its ‘60s glory has been restored including the intricate hardwood ceiling made of thin strips of Parana pine. This is now an endangered wood and must not get wet, so an aircraft hangar was built to protect the house while the project was underway.
The in-built wardrobes were lovingly repaired, and the original carpet meticulously copied from a small scrap of the original bright blue fabric using a 100-year-old loom. Old light fittings were rescued from the shed where they had been long forgotten.
A geometric sunken garden room has been added where the homeowners hold pre (and post) dinner drinks with friends sitting on the curved tangerine sofa. The RIBA judges commented on the deft way that old elements were stitched into new as this house formed of air-tight irregular polygons begins its new chapter.
Natasha Huq vista West Stirlingshire in the third project of the episode which she claims has “tested the limits of human endurance.” The Ostro Passivhaus is an air-tight, low energy home, designed and crafted by its two owners, in the evenings, at the weekend and during holiday breaks from their day jobs. It took architect Vary and her partner Martin, a designer, six years to complete their home.
“We sacrificed a lot and it has been painful,” Martin admits. With a budget of £180,000 they even had to handmake the cladding of diagonal strips of larch – managing one side per summer – using 5,500m of cladding and 10,000 nails. This box-like home is built with a smaller box inside which conceals the slatted staircase and all the services for the house. The rooms then wrap around the inner cube of utilities benefitting from the natural light which pours in through the oblong windows illuminating each living space. With its green roof and low energy needs, Huq describes it as an “exemplary model for environmental design.”
McCloud jumps over mini hurdles and crawls through a child’s play tunnel to introduce the fifth house as a construction obstacle course. The architects on this last project had a two-year battle with the local planners to win permission to build a modern home in a tight infill site on a Victorian terraced row in London. The council wanted them to replicate the standard housing stock of the area but what stands proudly on the road today is a modern box clad in slats of larch with an open plan minimal interior. A huge basement doubles the square footage of the property and houses the den, study, guest bedroom and bathroom. The open plan kitchen, dining room and living space dominates the ground floor while the luxurious master bedroom and dressing room inhabit the one above.
The cleverest but most challenging part of the build was the basement which was waterlogged. The builders had to pump water out as they were laying foundations. It wraps around an enormous lightwell which illuminates a series of spaces all interconnected and separately only by glass doors. On a tight budget, the interior design features “honest” building materials elevated into stylish finishes, such as soft pink plaster walls, exposed brick and polished concrete work surfaces set by the builders. “This is living proof that great ideas can win and ordinary materials can be elevated by craftsmanship and care,” concludes McCloud.
Watch the second episode of series seven of Grand Designs House of the Year next Wednesday at 9pm on Channel 4 to find out which projects will join Seabreeze and the Red House on the shortlist.