The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced six winners for its RIBA South East Awards, which recognize architectural excellence in the regions of Kent, Surrey, East Sussex, West Sussex and the Channel Islands. These winners will be considered for a RIBA National Award, which will be announced on June 23. Winners of the National Award will then be eligible for the RIBA Stirling Prize later in the year.
North Vat; Kent / Rodic Davidson Architects
The architects had previously worked with the clients on the refurbishment of their London home. Here the brief was to create a single living environment, allowing for entertainment, enjoyment and art. This was to be a calm and simple space where everyday activities could co-exist and all aspects of the surrounding landscape could be observed. There was no question about replacing the existing fisherman’s cottage and the form was conceived as a ‘cluster’ of small shed-like structures, referential to the local vernacular of pitched roof huts scattered along the beach front. The plan form of the proposed cluster was derived from the locations of the existing cottage and sheds, minimally adjusted to provide a simple living layout whilst maintaining a low impact on the ground ecology and sustaining the sense of randomness that was found in the original buildings.
Gateway Café; Peacehaven / Kaner Olette Architects
The Gateway Interpretation Café in Peacehaven is an exemplar for retrofit design due to its holistic sustainability approach and collaborative local community-led approach. Although a relatively small project with a budget of £340k, it has attempted to ‘raise the bar’ for design in a pocket of deprivation in the south east. This modest building by Kaner Olette Architects is essentially a remodelling of an old maintenance depot, which was built in 1979 in brick and asbestos.
During the development of the wider masterplan with Allen Scott Landscape, it was identified that the building was in a strategically important location to form a link between the existing sports and community facilities to the new park areas and the South Downs National Park. Building on the ‘gateway’ concept, it was decided that the maintenance building was to be retained and remodelled. Whilst the footprint and roofline is broadly observed, the transformation is remarkable.
An economic new skin (around the brickwork to improve thermal performance) of zinc and sweet chestnut belies thoughtful detailing, with the ability to open up the café with large sliding doors in good weather. These act as security shutters when closed, but this is another example where good architecture appears to engender respect - the previous incarnation was the subject of constant vandalism.
Cinque Ports Street; Rye / Jonathan Dunn Architects
The scheme provides a mix of residential accommodation with six flats, two penthouses, a studio and a detached house, with two commercial units to the street frontage. A central courtyard marks the line of the town wall. JDA took design cues from the historic imagery of warehouses along the river front and from the traditional coastal architecture of the East Sussex. The intention was to emphasise the simplicity of the traditional forms and materials by creating a street front elevation with a dramatic angular roof line and simple elevational detailing and treatment. The pallet of materials has been limited to dark timber rain screen cladding, slate and render. Careful consideration was given to the only apparently randomly placed windows in order to maximise the views towards the Rother valley and catch the best light. The panels are pre-insulated in factory conditions to ensure a very tight, well-sealed external fabric.
The close relationship between developer, architect and owner-occupier has led to an important infill of an intricate mixed-use complex in an historic setting. The architects have skilfully tiptoed around the remains of the Medieval wall, as well as resolving issues of access, overlooking and parking on a tight site, to achieve a rich mix of commercial space and dwellings: apartments, houses and penthouses. The latter benefit from long views over the town and Tillingham Valley beyond, and from generous volumes created from the dancing roofline, which takes its references from the organic Rye roofscape.
New House; East Sussex / BBM Sustainable Design
The new house was allowed to be more architecturally expressive, responding to the site, its topography, views, orientation and the forms of the adjacent Oast House. The roof is lifted up and twisted around to face due south, to benefit the solar panels. The roof also collects rainwater for re-use throughout the site. The estate’s 150 acres of woodland supplies biomass to heat this development which is designed as ‘Code for Sustainable Homes’ Level 5. A rammed earth wall greets you as to enter the house. Elsewhere lime plaster is applied direct to masonry walls and ceilings.
The Grade II listed Oast House had suffered from insensitive conversion in the 1970s. All the joinery has now been redone in oak, the wall re-pointed using traditional lime putty mortar and the roof replaced with clay peg tiles. All this was done while retrofitting the building to ensure its carbon footprint was reduced by 80%.
The Narrow House; East Sussex / Sanei Hopkins Architects
The cool exterior does not prepare one for the assault on the senses that the privilege of an invitation inside brings (save for a striking sculpture peeping over the balcony and coloured lasers overhead in the front porch). The house is part-home, part-lookout and part gallery for an outstanding collection of artwork and sculptures. Many of the latter are kinetic, responding to noise or movement, adding an additional sense of life to the space.
John Soane's influence purveys the house, with every conceivable inch of space utilised to exhibit or store this unique collection. Given the labyrinthine nature of the house, the main circulation is reassuringly simple with a single stair climbing from the front door with living and sleeping accommodation organised to one side. Even the stair treads are laser cut to spell out the shipping forecast in morse code for the observant visitor. At the end of the upward journey is a roof terrace (itself also a mini sculpture park) with breathtaking views out to sea.
Due to the geography of the region, protection from the elements became a recurring theme of this year’s visits. This house not only fronts a constantly-moving shingle beach, it sits below it. Hence, the high level-window sills of the lower floor bedroom are at beach level, reminding one of Lutyens’s eye-level tricks at Castle Drogo.
Le Petit Fort; Jersey / Hudson Architects
Set within the retained walls of an earlier building, Le Petit Fort offers an imaginative response to its setting and historical context through carefully considered contemporary architecture, a rich materials palette and fine craftsmanship. Le Petit Fort occupies the site of an earlier (now demolished) farmstead. This was constructed in the early 20th century and enclosed within massive granite walls, which have been retained and restored and which offer much needed shelter from the elements experienced only metres from the unforgiving Jersey shoreline. The reference to Napoleonic Martello towers and WWII fortifications is unavoidable and indeed intentional; so much so that this large house could be mistaken as part of that military collection from a distance. In fact the house was conceived to complete the concept of the ‘fort’ by building the missing fourth wall of the enclosure and creating a central element representing a ‘keep’. This three-storey entrance block, like the perimeter walls, is constructed from Jersey granite, reclaimed from the earlier building.
News and project descriptions via the Royal Institute of British Architects.