The award for the UK’s best new architect-designed house went to a County Down converted farmstead in rural Northern Ireland.
The modern barn, named House Lessans, was crowned House of the Year by The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).
You wouldn’t normally associate rolling hills with modern, minimalist architecture, but in the case of House Lessans the minimalist barn structure suits its countryside surroundings.
The three-bedroom County Down property which was built on the site of a former farmstead in Saintfield is firmly rooted in its landscape.
The home’s two blocks echo the barn and other agricultural buildings they sit alongside, while it’s minimal rooms all have large windows, making the most of the uninterrupted countryside views.
The L-shaped home is made up of two blocks, with walls made from white-rendered concrete with pitched zinc roofs, designed to complement the neighbouring agricultural outbuildings.
Like the exterior, all the rooms have simple finishes. The focus is on views out over the landscape that are framed through expanses of glass.
One wing of the house contains a suite of three bedrooms and one bathroom, while the second hosts the communal living spaces that includes a double-height living room and kitchen.
Belfast based studio McGonigle McGrath designed the family home to meet the needs of a semi-retired couple and their children, who have left home but occasionally visit and stay.
Basic building materials, cost-saving hacks and the simple arrangement of rooms within have meant that every penny of the client’s budget has been carefully and well spent.
The architecture firm impressively managed to design the whole home on a budget of just £335,000, equivalent to £1,425 per square metre.
To achieve this, architects McGonigle McGrath deliberately used simple details and construction methods which included cheap concrete blocks for the walls and huge openable windows, instead of bifold doors.
RIBA president Alan Jones said the home was “executed with incredible clarity and restraint”.
He added “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.”
Proof that you don’t need a big budget to achieve impressive design.
Architecture by Kieran McGonigle
Photography by Aidan McGrath