Opening of the Royal Society of Architects in Wales award-winning architecture exhibition


Dr Paul Harries, Head of Architecture at UWTSD, spoke at the launch of a new exhibition at the Senedd on Thursday evening. 

The Chicken Shed

The exhibition featured architectural projects that had won Welsh Architecture Awards in 2017 along with the National Eisteddfod Awards.

The Royal Society of Architects awards in Wales forms part of the RIBA Regional Awards programme - and the focus of the award is Architectural Excellence. The short listing of the Awards is undertaken by a panel of 4 architects and one lay person.

The Shortlisted schemes are then visited by a panel of 2 architects and one lay person - who then decide with buildings should receive an award. This year the Award panel was chaired by Dr Paul Harries.

The two Welsh Architecture Award winning schemes were the Chicken Shed and the Silver House, which also won the Client of the Year Award.

The Chicken shed is a very simple and elegant small house - the layout is simple and ingenious.

The living space is full of light and offers views towards the Black mountains. The bedrooms are reached via a short corridor, it rises to the full height of the building and terminates beneath a roof lantern. A clever architectural arrangement that visually extends the volume of the living space – this is a building that always feels bigger than it is!

To complement the generosity of the internal volume, door openings are higher than normal, imparting a grandness to the most modest of spaces. The polished concrete floors, boarded timber walls and exposed roof trusses are carefully detailed – ordinary materials assembled and finished with precision and thoughtfulness. Internal shutters to the bedroom windows are integrated into the reveals and lighting is housed between the bottom chords of paired trusses. It all looks effortless and relaxed – a testament to the design energy that has been put into this small project.

Externally the building is clad in materials reminiscent of agricultural buildings – black corrugated sheeting, timber cladding, galvanized steel gutters and downpipes. However, while the materials are basic the detailing is thoughtful and sophisticated; aluminium angles form re-entrant corners, a purpose made aluminium box forms the ridge, the glass lantern that lights the corridor sits delicately on the roof. Robust materials handled with a lightness of touch.

It’s a small project, but with a generous and uplifting ethos. A place to enjoy. This building also received the Small Building of the year Award.

The Silver house

The Silver House is a very elegant and thoughtful piece of architecture – set on a clifftop overlooking the Gower coast. It is rich with ideas without being over burdened with them. While it is rigorous in resolution it retains an air of easiness and is wholly comfortable in its context.

As a family home the accommodation is layered, dens in the basement, bedrooms on the ground floor and living room and master bedroom on the first floor. The architectural ordering follows the functions, the basement ‘cave’ is top lit, the bedrooms are enclosed in concrete walls wrapped in a dry stone rainscreen, the living space is framed in timber and steel and opens to wonderful coastal views.

The sense of movement inherent within the house extends out into the landscape, where timber decks and concrete terraces reconnect to the interior spaces, anchoring the house into it’s setting.

Although a wide range of materials are used they are deployed with thoughtfulness and intent – this is a building that is rich without being fussy or over elaborate. The small scale dry stone walling to the ground floor is a counterpoint to the expansive sheets of glass on the first floor. The solidity of the concrete walls to the interior of the ground floor contrasts with the lightness of the framed first floor. The precision of cast glass planks are set adjacent to the visual softness of timber panels. All of elements are carefully juxtaposed to form a subtle and dynamic, composition.

The intelligence and care invested in composing this building is echoed in the meticulous detailing – both inside and out. There is clarity, quality and an overall impression that all aspects of this house have been touched by talented minds.

Which is why the jury gave this building the Royal Society of Architects in Building of the Year Award.

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