Manser Medal: the London homes in-line for top architectural prize

Four innovative London homes are in the running for the prestigious Manser Medal, celebrating the very best in new British housing design.
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Four superb new London private houses have made the Manser Medal long list. The Manser, with which the Royal Institute of British Architects celebrates excellence in housing design, is a category of the prestigious annual Stirling Prize for architecture. This year’s 23 Manser entrants, from across the UK, are so strong that the Stirling Prize itself could easily go to one of them when winners are announced in October.

Two of London’s four outstanding houses are made of timber, the third is a big remodelled Victorian property, and the fourth is a paean to brick, concrete and light. Elsewhere, castles, cliff tops, treetops, flood plains, far-flung beaches, as well as more down-to-earth back gardens are all enhanced with brilliant new houses.

Glass with class
In Canonbury, architect Alison Brooks reworked a derelict, detached, four-storey house into a family home with office space over six years. The design had to take into account an old walnut tree in the garden with a preservation order on it. 

Inside, spaces have been opened up, making an exciting, modern home, but the most striking part is a new section of faceted glass at the rear. This gem-like structure inspired the name, Lens House, and is wrapped in Corian, a durable, shiny surface material that contrasts with the soft, old Victorian brick of the main house. 

Wood’s good
Artist Richard Woods, the client at WoodBlock House in Bethnal Green, worked with architects dRMM on an innovative design with wooden floors, walls and ceilings. The modern, boxy house, smelling of fresh timber, incorporates an artist’s studio at ground level, where it gets the north light and looks on to a yard, while the family lives above. Made of cross-laminated panels, the house was built swiftly, is very sustainable, and has a back elevation of painted plywood.

Tree’s company
Timber features strongly again in Tree House, by 6a Architects for architecture critic Rowan Moore, whose Grade II-listed home in E1 was created when two 1830s weavers cottages were connected in the Seventies. His wife needed better access for her wheelchair. The solution was to build an extension — which includes a bedroom, bathroom and kitchen, all accessible and practical — linked to the main house by a ramped corridor, and curving around a sumac tree in the garden. On wooden foundations, clad in timber and painted white inside, it is reminiscent of a summerhouse, while the rooms look out to the garden along its length.
Privacy’s paramount
The Luker House in Barnes is another strong collaboration between owner and architect. The difficult south-west London plot was going to be overlooked by new development, and architect Jamie Fobert took privacy into consideration from the start, along with daylight and possible flood risk issues. The house was commissioned by services engineer Henry Luker and his wife, who installed services and project-managed the job, with Fobert going on site when needed. The house, of brick and concrete, has magical internal light and is finished to a very high standard, making a home that is surprising and welcoming, as well as partly  self-built.
Best of the rest
Elsewhere around the UK, intriguing homes on the long list include Wildfowl Cottage in Cambridge, by 5th Studio. Looking like a wooden birdwatching hut perched on higher ground behind an old inn that’s prone to flooding, it’s a haven should the place flood again, and romantic in its own right. And on the far-flung Isle of Tiree in the Inner Hebrides, architect Denizen Works has added a dazzling, curved corrugated building to the side of a traditional house.

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