The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) recently unveiled its 2019 House of the Year—and the streamlined, $180-per-square-foot home is a breath of fresh air in a world overgrown with excessive, tall, poppy design.
"[House Lessans] has an elegant simplicity achieved within a remarkably low budget without excesses," says RIBA chair member John Pardey, who selected the home alongside a panel of peers. "It represents a paradigm in creating relevant contemporary architecture that truly reflects its local context, vernacular, and culture."
At approximately $433,000, the home consists of an updated barn, a front yard, a separate three-bedroom suite with its own courtyard, and a main structure with a kitchen and adjacent, roomy living spaces. Floor-to-ceiling windows provide views out onto the infinite rolling drumlins of County Down.
To stretch the budget without compromising quality, McGonigle McGrath implemented pitched roofs made of corrugated zinc—typical of local agricultural buildings—and they opted for walls made of inexpensive stacked concrete blocks. Huge sliding glass doors—instead of costly bifold doors—provide ample daylight and sweeping views.
McGonigle McGrath was previously shortlisted for the RIBA award in 2015 for House at Maghera, which also reinterprets traditional building forms in a rural setting. With their latest project, it appears that the firm hit the sweet spot between simplicity, beauty, and affordability.
"McGonigle McGrath have used simple and cheap materials to create a truly bespoke home that resonates with its owners and its context," says RIBA president Alan Jones. "Even with the tightest of budgets, House Lessans shows that a dream home, designed by a talented architect, can be a reality."