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The Retreat competition - now closed for entries

Jan-Carlos Kucharek

Show us your design for a place to escape to and win £2500 in the RIBAJ SterlingOSB Zero 2022. Check back for the results.

The narrators of the Decameron. Bodleian Library, MS Holkham misc 49f 5r detail. Unknown illustrator c1467
The narrators of the Decameron. Bodleian Library, MS Holkham misc 49f 5r detail. Unknown illustrator c1467 Credit: The Picture Art Collection. Alamy stock photo


The idea of the retreat has long been embedded in western culture. Take 14th century Italian author Giovanni Boccaccio’s The Decameron, written from 1348-53, whose plot revolves around 10 people fleeing a Florence beset by Black Death to seek shelter in a deserted villa outside the city. In the safety of its walled garden, each agrees to tell a story each day over 10 days - 100 in all - as a diversion to pass the days of isolation.

Recent events have made the premise of this nearly 700-year-old text prescient. Indeed, if the pandemic revealed anything, it is the desire to escape the city and seek refuge in the country. 

West Fraser is asking you to hold that thought in mind for its seventh annual SterlingOSB Zero competition, The Retreat. We want you to select a site and design a country escape for up to 10 people; one whose form and material have a strong, considered relationship with the landscape it sits in, as well as internal volumes that elicit meaningful interactions between users. Which spaces allow small, contemplative gatherings and which give exposure to the countryside? How are relationships between them mediated? Inspiration may come from a classic design or one of the many new Living Architecture homes - but the building must be constructed, mainly, of SterlingOSB Zero board. 

We place no demands on the site itself, the materiality or the structure’s size. What we’re looking for is a poetic interpretation of the brief, celebrating the potential of a site, its internal configuration, and SterlingOSB Zero.



We are asking entrants to design a retreat for up to 10 occupants, set within a landscaped setting of their choosing. This may be one or more storeys in height. Terraces or internal courtyards may be incorporated. While we assume the design may be made up of a palette of different materials, we would like to see SterlingOSB Zero used as the main part of the overall material strategy. How does its nature and high strength features make it integral to the retreat’s design?

While we do not seek to curb imagination, we would ask you to consider the nature of SterlingOSB Zero and ensure propositions reflect its material capabilities. SterlingOSB Zero used externally should be adequately protected with a cladding material and/or insulation; this may also apply to internal finishes.


Chaired by the RIBA Journal, judges will look for imaginative uses of SterlingOSB Zero that best responds to the competition brief. Pre-fabrication or CNC fabrication to create novel forms will be considered. Other materials may form an integral part of the proposition, but it is expected that the design will make good use of SterlingOSB Zero. 

The winning proposal in this ideas’ competition will be the one that, in the minds of the judges, best unites practical needs of simple habitation with the romantic qualities of the landscape it sits in, in a considered and poetic way.


The confirmed judges for the West Fraser Retreat competition are:

Kristofer Adelaide, Director, Kristofer Adelaide Architecture
Timea Cooper, Marketing manager, West Fraser UK
Stephen Proctor, Founding director, Proctor & Matthews
Debby Ray, Head of Design, Knight Dragon
Jan-Carlos Kucharek, Deputy editor, RIBA Journal



Entries should be received by 18.00 UK time on Friday, 24th June 2022.


Upload your entry HERE. Entries must include the following, laid out on no more than two A3 sheets, supplied electronically as pdfs:

• An explanation of no more than 500 words on the entry form, describing the design of the building, stating clearly where SterlingOSB Zero board has been used and the core ideas around the design of the proposition, its siting and configuration.

• Plans and sections explaining the nature of the building, its structure, build-up and material composition.

• 3D Axonometric or perspective images conveying the nature of the proposition.

• Any supplementary images you may consider helpful.


• The judges’ decision is final

• First prize is £2,500. Three commended prizes of £500.

• No correspondence will be entered into by the organisers or judges regarding entries and final decisions.

• Shortlisted entries will be notified in writing.

• National guidance permitting, shortlisted entries will be invited to the prize-giving event in September

• Please email any questions to

The Retreat is produced in association with West Fraser 


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