Saintfield house crowned UK RIBA House of the Year 2019


A private house in Co Down, designed by McGonigle McGrath has been announced as the winner of the UK RIBA House of the Year 2019.

RIBA House of the Year, formerly the Manser Medal, is awarded to the best example of a one-off house designed by an architect in the UK. The award celebrates excellence and innovation in home design. 

Twenty houses were longlisted by the RIBA and have been featuring in Grand Designs: House of the Year on Channel 4. Over four weeks seven houses will be shortlisted for the award – with the final winner announced in tonight’s episode. 

The project has received an RSUA Design Award and an RIBA National Award. Below is a short film from RSUA with the architect and client.

Joan McCoy, RSUA President, said: “We are delighted that a Northern Irish project has won the prestigious award of RIBA House of the Year 2019. There is a growing appreciation of the quality of Northern Irish architecture – often undertaken with challenging budgets – and this project demonstrates clearly the value that architects bring to building projects large and small.”

Alan Jones, RIBA President said: “House Lessans demonstrates that life enhancing architecture does not have to cost the earth. Executed with incredible clarity and restraint, McGonigle McGrath have used simple and cheap materials to create a truly bespoke home that resonates with its owners and its context. Even with the tightest of budgets, House Lessans shows that a dream home, designed by a talented architect, can be a reality.”

Kieran McGonigle, McGonigle McGrath, said: “It has been both a delight and a challenge to work on this project; a delight in the beautiful location in this archetypically Ulster landscape and in the simple brief, and a challenge in designing and delivering a precisely detailed and high quality building within a modest budget. The outcome, a small collection of forms in the landscape, contributes to this place and, we hope, extends our understanding of how to make buildings in our countryside. Our thanks go to our insightful and trusting clients, and to the contractor’s team and craftspeople who had the patience and skills to bring our designs to reality. We are thrilled with the outcome.”

Sylvia and Michael, the owners of House Lessans said: “Like most non-architects about to build a home we had a clear idea about what we’d like in terms of rooms but no idea about how these rooms might be arranged or what the house might look like. The magic a gifted architect can work was evident from the moment we saw the initial plans and that appreciation deepened as the project progressed. We feel that the house respects and indeed enhances the landscape. It is a joy to live in – from seeing the soaring bedroom ceiling on wakening, being surrounded by the gentle landscape in the kitchen during the day, to enjoying the sunset in the top room. We’re delighted to be a part of the RIBA celebration of the life enhancing potential of architecture.”

Chair of the 2019 RIBA House of the Year jury, architect John Pardey, said: “House Lessans in the rolling countryside of County Down was chosen as the winner as it represents a paradigm in creating relevant contemporary architecture that truly reflects its local context, vernacular and culture. It has an elegant simplicity achieved within a remarkably low budget without excesses, creating delight in the subtly changing volumes as well as its relationship between the inside and outside. The house takes the daily business of life and with the architects’ skills in making a house from simple materials, carefully detailed and with precise alignments, succeeds in becoming not just a house, but more importantly, a home.”

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