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Sycamore House, Haringey

Words:
Regional Awards Jury

Jonathan Wilson’s and Circle Architecture’s timber-clad Passivhaus home, with its sense of connection and transparency, wins a 2024 RIBA London Award

Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg

2024 RIBA London Award

Sycamore House, Haringey
Jonathan Wilson with Circle Architecture for Jonathan Wilson

Contract value: Confidential 
GIA: 136m2

A small, tricky plot with several planning constraints did not deter this architect from crafting this two-storey house for himself, following the sudden death of his wife. A rigorous approach to low-energy sustainability guided every design move. A small oasis in this corner of the city, the house is a simple, calming environment, with a strong inside-outside connection and a piano at its heart. It effortlessly and elegantly meets the specific living needs of its owner while serving as a demonstration project for how to go about creating a fully Passivhaus-certified dwelling. Having overcome neighbourly objections to an earlier scheme, it was vital that the design’s scale, articulation, and materiality were sympathetic and modest in relation to its context.

The house comprises two intersecting rectangles, one of which is one storey and pushed forward towards the street. These two interlocking volumes create a smaller forecourt at the front and a larger courtyard garden at the rear, around which the house folds in an L-shape. The living room and kitchen, linked by a central corridor and stage accommodating the piano, address each other across the courtyard in an atmosphere of connection and transparency. On entering the house, the main staircase opens up to the bedroom floor above.

  • Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
    Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
  • Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
    Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
  • Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
    Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
  • Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
    Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
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The woodland setting and the drive to sustainability led to a house predominantly clad in timber. The base is of vertically battened solid European tulipwood, overlaid with green living walls. On the upper level, thermo-treated larch planks are laid vertically in a relaxed random-width pattern.

The house is simply laid out, but is deceptively detailed, and this is where the jury found much of its interest lay. A key design driver was to achieve Passivhaus certification, which in simple terms means superb insulation levels and minimal air leakage. Every part of the house has been meticulously designed with energy savings in mind. The building shell is formed of prefabricated engineered timber cassettes with integral recycled newspaper insulation, Passivhaus-certified triple glazing and doors, and a structural raft with 50% blast-furnace slag cement substitute on dense insulated blocks. Internal walls are of Fermacell gypsum fibreboard, chosen due to their higher composition of recycled materials than standard plasterboard. A rainwater harvesting tank, used to provide grey water for the living wall and toilets, sits under the forecourt, while the photovoltaic array on the roof provides 22% of the total energy demand. A first-floor sedum roof reduces rainwater run-off. Constant filtered fresh air is provided by a mechanical ventilation with heat recovery (MVHR) unit. A heat pump can provide heating which has been very rarely required. Even the bathroom drainage incorporates a heat recovery pipe to extract heat from bath/shower waste water and transfer it to the hot water cylinder.

  • Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
    Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
  • Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
    Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
  • Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
    Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
  • Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
    Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
  • Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
    Sycamore House. Morley Von Sternberg
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Despite the vicissitudes of planning and the trickiness of the site, the architect has shown how a small project can act as major exemplar for others.

See the rest of the RIBA London winners hereAnd all the RIBA Regional Awards here

To see the whole RIBA Awards process visit architecture.com

RIBA Regional Awards 2024 sponsored by EH Smith and Autodesk

Credits

Contractor Jigsaw Design and Construction
Shell design and manufacture PYC Construction
Structural engineer Rodrigues Associates
Environmental/M&E engineer Enhabit (now part of GBS)
Quantity surveyor/cost consultant Smith Thomas Consult

 

Credit: Circle Architecture
Credit: Circle Architecture
Credit: Circle Architecture
Credit: Circle Architecture
Credit: Circle Architecture

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