AR House is a major new award of £10,000 for the design of the best one-off house
The AR is launching a new award for the best one-off house. In the history of architecture, the private house occupies a unique position. Beyond its core function of shelter, it is an object of fantasy, a source of delight, a talisman and a testing ground. Everyone dreams of having a home and the allure of the house continues to grow, fuelled by magazines and television programmes dedicated to celebrating lifestyle and location.
But there is a more serious aspect to all this. Beyond the froth of lifestyle, when an enlightened client meets the right architect the repercussions can be truly historic. Where would modern architecture be without the Villa Savoye or the Tugendhat, Schminke and Farnsworth Houses?
All were calls to arms on a long, hard road of experiment and discovery that not only changed the notion of the modern house, but also had a much wider cultural resonance. From Corbusier to Koolhaas, the progress of modern architecture can be tracked through a succession of pioneering individual houses. Regardless of scale, site, programme or budget, the house offers the potential for genuine innovation.
In the 1920s and ’30s, AR editors published a succession of new English houses in the now seminal Modern House issues. Examining how modernism might deliver an optimistic and healthy new way of living, these issues charted modernism’s ascent in the English shires and showed how a new architectural movement was being tested and refined through the medium of the private house.
Today’s houses are infinitely diverse, from the ingenious Japanese manipulations of miniscule urban spaces to the trophy houses of California and Europe, but among this ferment there are still periodic pioneers. AR House aims to seek them out.
The rationale for this new award came from our existing Emerging Architecture Awards programme. The house is by far the most common building type submitted, so that set us thinking about how to acknowledge and celebrate this wellspring of creativity.
It’s the one commission that virtually all architects tackle at some stage in their careers and is still an important rite of passage for young designers, many of whom get their first break with a commission to design a house for family members or friends. It is also a chance for more established architects to cut loose and showboat.
So, AR House will have no age limit and a generous prize fund of £10,000 for the winner. The closing date for submissions is 24 May. Entries will be judged by a distinguished international jury of Sou Fujimoto from Japan, Alberto Campo Baeza from Spain and David Chipperfield from the UK.
All are accomplished designers of contemporary houses. As with Emerging Architecture, only built projects will be eligible and winning and commended schemes will be published in a special issue of the AR in August. There are also plans for an exhibition of winning entries.
From this inaugural year, we hope AR House will grow to become the most exciting and prestigious global award of its kind for a single building type. And that it will write the next chapter in the history of the modern house.