Celebrating houses from around the world
There was an extraordinarily international gathering at the Grange Hotel in the City of London yesterday, as 10 out of 12 of the winners of the Architectural Review’s House awards attended the awards ceremony – quite an achievement as they came from as far afield as New Zealand, Australia, China and Borneo. It is always fascinating to see the best of house design, an area that has traditionally been a testing ground for the best of architectural talents, and for the production of new ideas.
The overall winner, John Lin from Hong Kong, was certainly in this tradition, with a prototypical rural house for China that addresses not only issues of sustainability but the changing nature of the Chinese countryside as it becomes increasingly dependent on handouts from family members emigrating to the cities. Lin is proposing a type of rural self-sufficiency which, he believes, is not isolationist but offers hope for the future. Quite a burden for one house to bear, but a well-deserved winner.
As AR editor Catherine Slessor pointed out, many of the winning houses take the form of objects in the landscape. While this allows the most creative sculptural expression, and also enables the design to frame views beautifully, it does seem as if this is the ideal condition, and in some ways the easiest, for the architects to address. But the selection does also include two houses from Japan, which, as is so often the case with great Japanese houses, create an oasis of calm and make the best of a chaotic urban environment.
We need perhaps a happy medium – great urban houses which address and enhance their environment. Too often though this is beyond the control of the humble architect of a single house. And there is certainly much to admire in the work of this prize-winning dozen – not least their determination to travel so far to pick up their awards.