Highgate home wins Manser Medal

This year’s prestigious £10,000 Manser Medal, awarded by the Royal Institute of British Architects for the best home design has been won by the only London entry — the fabulously remodelled Hampstead Lane House, in Highgate
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Hampstead Lane House in Highgate
New look: the remodelling of a tired home in Highgate showed what can be achieved when a house is “recycled” rather than bulldozed and replaced
Hampstead Lane beat off a strong shortlist of six architect-designed dream homes around the country.

The transformation of this past-its-sell-by-date home is so striking that it shows not only what good architects can do, but the value of recycling rather than bulldozing.

It is now an open, welcoming, very light house, beautifully connected with its garden, and supporting an open-plan, friendly lifestyle. But it began life as a severe, concrete, Brutalist box with many rooms.

It had been the cherished vision of an architect couple who designed and built it themselves in 1968 and lived and worked in it for the next 24 years.

But by 1992, tired, and facing demolition, it was spotted by another architect couple who took the unusual decision to commission a different practice to transform it, rather than doing the job themselves.

Using contemporary technology, Duggan Morris Architects replaced the main supporting cross-walls with steel beams, opening up the interior, to create a completely different, big, and open home.

The new living-dining-cooking space looks straight on to the large garden through sliding doors; the master bedroom looks on to the garden across a strip of planted roof.

The garden itself has a Scandinavian style that suits the house, for its Brutalist exterior has been kept. ‘We all dream of our perfect home,’ says RIBA president Angela Brady; ‘it might be in the heart of the city, but it will transform the way we live our lives, because that is what great architecture does.’

A strong theme shared by the other houses on the shortlist is the use of extensive glazing, uniting inside and outside, as well as providing lots of daylight and some thermal gain.

Two of the houses, Balancing Barn (in Suffolk, designed by MVRDV and Mole Architects and Ty Hedfan, (in Brecon, Powis, designed by Featherstone Young) are cantilevered, and appear to hover impossibly over space - in one case, a river.

While energy conservation is important in all the entrants, a house in Epsom, Surrey (by Eldridge Smerin) uses both ground-source heating and solar panels to offset its striking glassy looks.

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