Architecture

Contemporary country house named Britain's best new home

Contemporary country house nam...
Caring Wood is a large luxury home situated within a rolling 84 acre (33 hectare) estate in the Kent countryside
Caring Wood is a large luxury home situated within a rolling 84 acre (33 hectare) estate in the Kent countryside
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Caring Wood was completed in 2016
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Caring Wood was completed in 2016
Caring Wood measures 1,400 sq m (15,069 sq ft)
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Caring Wood measures 1,400 sq m (15,069 sq ft)
Caring Wood takes the form of four towers
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Caring Wood takes the form of four towers
Caring Wood serves as home to three generations of family
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Caring Wood serves as home to three generations of family
Caring Wood was designed by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell
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Caring Wood was designed by James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell
Caring Wood makes good use of local handmade peg clay tiles, locally quarried ragstone and coppiced chestnut cladding
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Caring Wood makes good use of local handmade peg clay tiles, locally quarried ragstone and coppiced chestnut cladding
"The lively and sculptural house, despite its scale and grandeur, manages to also feel pleasingly domestic and intimate," says RIBA juror Sandra Coppin
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"The lively and sculptural house, despite its scale and grandeur, manages to also feel pleasingly domestic and intimate," says RIBA juror Sandra Coppin
"Caring Wood invokes a strong sense of place and time through the skillful use of materiality, form-making and craft," adds the judge
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"Caring Wood invokes a strong sense of place and time through the skillful use of materiality, form-making and craft," adds the judge
Caring Wood is a re-imagined English country house with a contemporary design 
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Caring Wood is a re-imagined English country house with a contemporary design 
Caring Wood's interior looks cosy and comfortable
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Caring Wood's interior looks cosy and comfortable
Caring Wood was completed in 2016
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Caring Wood was completed in 2016
Caring Wood measures 1,400 sq m (15,069 sq ft)
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Caring Wood measures 1,400 sq m (15,069 sq ft)
"The lively and sculptural house, despite its scale and grandeur, manages to also feel pleasingly domestic and intimate," says RIBA juror Sandra Coppin
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"The lively and sculptural house, despite its scale and grandeur, manages to also feel pleasingly domestic and intimate," says RIBA juror Sandra Coppin
Caring Wood is a large luxury home situated within a rolling 84 acre (33 hectare) estate in the Kent countryside
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Caring Wood is a large luxury home situated within a rolling 84 acre (33 hectare) estate in the Kent countryside
View gallery - 14 images

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has declared the winner of its annual House of the Year competition. Caring Wood, a 21st Century re-imagining of a traditional English country house, came first out of a strong selection of 20 finalists. It boasts significant sustainable technology and allows three generations of a growing family to live together.

Completed in 2016, Caring Wood is a large luxury home comprising 1,400 sq m (15,069 sq ft) of floorspace and situated in a rolling 84-acre (33-hectare) country estate in Kent, southern England.

Its unusual shape, dominated by four tilting towers arranged around a central courtyard, is inspired by traditional oast houses which were once used for beer production in the area and are defined by their distinctive roofs. The project definitely has a strong local flavor, and makes use of local materials like handmade peg clay tiles and coppiced chestnut cladding.

Its imposing size belies a comfortable interior that's more cosy than you might expect, and architects James Macdonald Wright and Niall Maxwell also ensured that family members can enjoy closeness while retaining that all-important sense of separation and privacy.

Caring Wood's interior looks cosy and comfortable
Caring Wood's interior looks cosy and comfortable

"The lively and sculptural house, despite its scale and grandeur, manages to also feel pleasingly domestic and intimate," says RIBA juror Sandra Coppin. "Caring Wood invokes a strong sense of place and time through the skillful use of materiality, form-making and craft. The architects have woven together the strands that make a really good building: form, materiality, function and poetics to produce an ambitious, highly crafted and impressive home."

RIBA's judges also note that the already impressive landscaping will grow to become something really special in a few years from now.

Caring Wood's four towers promote stack ventilation, in a similar way to how a chimney draws in air, to naturally cool its interior. According to the Guardian, ground source heat pumps are installed, which provide efficient heating by drawing warmth from the ground during winter. In addition, an electric car-charging point and solar panel arrays feature in the home.

Sources: RIBA, Macdonald Wright Architects

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1 comment
ljaques
Typical to architectect-based awards, this award goes to a massively wasteful and totally impractical fifteen thousand square foot "home". From a sustainable angle, five large country or contemporary homes could have been built for less money with fewer trucks worth of materials. Reroofing that one "house" will cost fifty thousand. Oh, wait, "coppiced chestnut cladding"? Make that $75k. With the tall ceilings, there is probably 150 thousand cubic feet of air to condition. I wonder how many heat pumps they used, and they didn't show a large solar array, though both are mentioned. (Yes, a heat stack can draw in _some_ cooler air, but it isn't cold, clean, or dust-free, as the maids could tell you.) This is reminiscent of Algore's $34k per year utility bills. And how could something which takes you up and down 100 stairs over the day feel anything resembling "intimate"? They talk of privacy, and the stairs might accomplish some of that, but one of the rooms had either bars or 5" x 8' windows into the hallway. (Somehow, that doesn't fit my definition of privacy.) And how could something so utterly ugly be considered "Britain's best new home"? I will never understand an architect's mind. Maybe these awards are given out like the Nobels: simply in satire or to stir controversy. In this case, they will surely achieve their goal. On a positive note, I did like the wood flooring in the barred room.