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The RIBA Stirling Prize 2005
While the Stirling Prize recognises landmark architectural works, the Manser Medal, which is presented in association with The Best of British Homes, rewards more modest buildings: it is given to the designers of the best one-off house in the UK. This year’s shortlist shows a strong bias for environmentally friendly architecture as well as sensitively built homes which have a low impact on their surrounds.

Stealth House
Robert Dye Associates, London

A Californian beach house in Camberwell? Stealth House could only be the home of a comedian. In fact, it is the family home of comedienne, Jenny Éclair, her husband, Geof Powell and their teenage daughter. Two years ago, Geof gave up his job as a graphic designer and decided, with the help of architects Robert Dye Associates, to build his own home. He had first to demolish the “ugly, fifties” house built on the site he had chosen. In its place, Powell and the architects built a remarkable five-bedroom timber-framed house.

The outer walls are clad in Russian redwood, while inside the walls are rendered with K-rend, which is made with crushed rubble and junk. The house is designed to allow air, and visitors, to circulate freely through it. Windows are positioned in order to give unusual views. However stealthy the house is not: its dark cladding and unusual structure make it stand out from decidedly ordinary neighbours, but its skilful presentation makes it a welcome distraction.

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© Shed KM
Private House, Oak Farm
Shed KM, Liverpool

Oak Farm 1 is an example of a sympathetic and intelligent conversion of an old building into a modern home. It consists of two buildings, a Grade II listed 17th century farmhouse which has been restored and which is linked, via a two-storey glass walkway, to a large, modern sandstone construction. The floor level is set slightly below the surrounding landscape, which allows for views across the surrounding woodland floor.

Inside, all is luxury. Furniture is fitted and has been specially designed, the teak kitchen in particular is stunning. This is a luxury home, with careful attention paid to every detail.

Shed KM’s method is, well, methodical. The architects like to take a problem, expose the parts and put together a solution based on “simplicity, logic and style”, always keeping to modernist principles. Here, parts of the problem were unsympathetic extensions built onto the farm in the 18th and 19th centuries. These have been demolished, leaving an uncomplicated and attractive profile.

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Private House
BBM Sustainable Design with Milk Design, Hove

God knows what the neighbours must think of this “radical green makeover” of a three-storey 1970s house, located in a particularly straight-laced area of Hove. The house was built by BBM Sustainable Design, working in partnership with the home’s owners who run Milk Design, a furniture and interiors consultancy. Sitting among rather grand villas and faux palazzos, this is a quiet, and understated, but distinctly alternative conversion.

As the name of the firm suggests, BBM Sustainable Design specialises in pursuing projects which “can demonstrate best practice towards a more sustainable society”. To this end, the architects have used locally sourced sweet chestnut rainscreen cladding for the first time ever in a domestic project, giving the house a quite beautiful silvery-grey façade. The interior is plastered with natural clay and insulation is made of recycled paper and jute.

This is one of the new breed of eco-friendly houses, one of those laying to rest the stereotypical image of environmentally-friendly architecture as ugly and uncomfortable, and creating in its place a vision of green architecture as intelligent, luxurious and very beautiful.

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Cobtun House
Associated Architects, Worcester

Cobtun House, which could be described as disappearing into the landscape or emerging seamlessly from it, is a low-slung, quirky country cottage in a picturesque setting. The house was built by Associated Architects for Nicholas Worsley, who gave them rather an odd nine-word brief: Humour, Mystery, Fantasy, Ecological, Sustainable, Independent, Contextual, Agricultural, Invisible.

So whilst Cobtun disappears into its surrounds, it is also charming and idiosyncratic. Few of the rooms have right angles, some are triangular or even funnel-shaped. There are sloping shelves in the study. It is also sensitively built, using local oak and stone from the nearby Forest of Dean. It is environmentally friendly, heated with solar panels and insulated with old newspapers. But perhaps its most unusual feature is the Cob wall which gives the house its name. People have been building with cob, which comprises mud, stray, clay and sand, since the 13th century. The technology may be primitive, but, says Cobtun House’s owner, Nick Worsley, this cosy home is “a daily pleasure to live in”.

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Watch the awards live with Kevin McCloud from 7pm on Saturday 15th October.
Take part in a live webchat with Jack Pringle, Judge and President of the RIBA, after the show.
Discuss your views on this year's prize.
Take a look at the official RIBA site.

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