A modern, carbon-neutral take on the traditional English country house in Kent has won the Royal Institution of British Architects’ House of the Year award. Designed by James MacDonald Wright and Niall Maxwell, the rural dwelling called Caring Wood was praised for its eco-friendly and multigenerational design — properties that RIBA president Ben Derbyshire believes will “influence UK housing for many years to come.”
Designed for three generations of the same family, Caring Wood sports an eye-catching form with four tilting towers that take inspiration from traditional oast houses, agricultural buildings used for kilning hops. This unusual design that pays homage to the local vernacular is what granted it planning permission in the National Planning Policy Framework, which recognized it early on for its “outstanding architectural quality.”
Locally sourced materials and craft traditions were used in construction, including handmade peg tiles, locally quarried ragstone, and coppiced chestnut shingles. The sculptural project also gives back to the landscape with 25,000 trees planted on the 84-acre estate. Low energy design principles maximize natural ventilation, daylighting, and passive stack ventilation, while clean green technologies are also incorporated and include solar panels, EV charging, and ground source heat pumps.
“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,” said RIBA House of the Year 2017 jury chair, Deborah Saunt. “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.”
Images © James Morris