Caring Wood in Kent, a ‘paragraph 55’ house reviewed by the DSE design review panel, has been named 2017 RIBA House of the Year.

Designed by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell the house is inspired by the traditional oast houses of Kent, the agricultural buildings for kilning
hops. Caring Wood revives local building crafts and traditions including locally sourced handmade peg clay tiles, locally quarried ragstone and coppiced chestnut cladding. The house comprises four towers, with interlinking roofs like markers in the landscape, echoing other oast houses in the distance.

Caring Wood re-imagines the traditional English country house. It speaks of its time and place: with a contemporary design that has clear links to the rural vernacular.

The RIBA House of the Year is awarded to the best new house designed by an architect in the UK. The shortlist and winner were announced as part of Grand Designs: House of the Year, a special four-part Channel 4 TV series presented by Kevin McCloud, Damion Burrows and Michelle Ogundehin.

RIBA president Ben Derbyshire described Caring Wood as a ‘house built for multiple generations’, which would inspire future housing in the UK.

‘This ambitious house explores new architectural methods, materials and crafts and allows us to question the future of housing and the concept of multigenerational living,’ he added. ’I’ve no doubt many of the ideas displayed at Caring Wood will influence UK housing for many years to come.’

Macdonald Wright of Macdonald Wright Architects credited the project with showing that ‘by joining together, small practices can do big things’.

Niall Maxwell of Rural Office for Architecture said that a ‘collaboration with many talented people enabled us to realise the design for this contemporary country house’, adding: ‘This demonstrates what small practices are capable of when given the chance by enlightened clients.’

Six Wood Lane designed by DSE Panel Chair, Richard Portchmouth of Birds Portchmouth Russum was also on the House of the Year shortlist.

Full details of the House of Year winner and shortlist are on the RIBA website.

DSE reviews a number of ‘paragraph 55’ houses each year. Paragraph 55 is the section of the National Planning Policy Framework that proscribes building new houses isolated sites in the countryside, but certain clauses allow such houses to be built if they are ‘outstanding or innovative’. Local authorities look to the DSE design review panel to help them evaluate whether proposed houses meet the test under paragraph 55 and architects and their clients look to us to guide them towards achieving paragraph 55 status.  For details of our design review services email or call 01634 401166.