Sable House Chilterns Building of the Year

Living Magazines Sable House winners group

Sable House in Buckinghamshire has been named as the Chilterns Building Design Award winners for 2021. The awards, jointly organised by Chilterns Conservation Board and Chiltern Society, were presented in a ceremony at the winning building on Thursday 23 September 2021. This year, with increased global awareness of climate change, the awards have been adapted to recognise designs that make a significant contribution to mitigating and/or adapting to climate change, as well as promoting the local distinctiveness of the Chilterns.

Through the 2021 competition a wide variety of 29 entrants were considered for the accolade including new buildings, restorations, extensions, conversions and public sector projects. Winners were carefully selected by an expert panel of judges working in the field of architecture and planning, all who took careful account of the advice given in the Chilterns Buildings Design Guide. The award categories for 2021 included Best ‘Green’ Building, Best Modern Building and Best Traditional Building, and the winners for each category were announced as:

Joint Best Modern Building and overall winner – Sable House

A collaboration between Heinz Richardson of Buro Nineteen (Principal Design Architect) and Bronwen Gombert of Connected Architecture (Executive Delivery Architect).

The judges described Sable House as an utterly modern design, noting how it fitted extremely well into site, using modern materials, such as steel combined with traditional Chiltern materials including stained timber and flint.

Whilst very much a ‘one off’ building of the highest quality, the judges felt so many of these principles were transferable and could influence Chiltern design more widely. They were unanimous that Sable House deserves to be the overall winner of the competition and Chilterns Building of the Year 2021.

Bronwen Gombert, Executive Delivery Architect, Connected Architecture said: ‘We are delighted that Sable House has been recognised with this award as an exemplar of high quality, modern architecture that sits comfortably within the very special landscape of the Chilterns. To have the house described as clever design, with beautiful detailing offering lessons for everyday building is tremendous.’

Best Green Building – Samarkand by Steven Clarke, Napier Clarke Architects

When considering the best green building category the judges noted the needs of high energy efficiency, something well known in new buildings, and reflected in many entries in this category. They flagged the huge amounts of energy tied up in existing buildings which is wasted when demolished. This is why they believed Samarkand is important: a conversion which kept and adapted almost all the original building.

In addition to energy saving, two elements impressed them: first, the building achieves a very high quality of design, which would have been a contender for an award in its own right, had it been new build. Second, its achievements were made for about half the cost of a new build. Both are important lessons for anyone contemplating demolishing and replacing an existing house.

Best Traditional Building – Chisbridge Farm by Tony Mealing, Garrett Mckee Architects

The Chisbridge Farm project, a large linking block between two old and distinguished domestic Chilterns buildings, needed sensitivity, and the judges were impressed with how this was delivered. An ingenious and quite modern steel frame clad in vernacular materials has been delivered with great skill and authenticity – but with delightful individual design touches such as the gable windows. The result combines admirable architectural design with excellent craftsmanship, all of which could apply to smaller buildings throughout the Chilterns as a good exemplar.

Best Modern Building – Cherry Tree House by Fred Guttfield, Guttfield Architecture

Cherry Tree House is an exciting partial retention of an existing house with approximately two-thirds replaced as a new build. The judges described it as a clean, crisp design with a lovely rhythm to the roof and clever use of simple modern materials, combined with beautifully detailed flint work. The traditional material re-interpretation sits beautifully on site when viewed from valley below.

Rasa Akelyte-Rashid, Design Awards Ambassador said: ‘The awards are important, not just recognising one-off good design, but holding up examples which could be more widely applied with transferable lessons – a shared ambition of both the Chilterns Conservation Board and the Chiltern Society. It has been a pleasure to be working together on this important initiative.’

Matt Thomson, Planner, The Chilterns Conservation Board said: ‘The Chilterns is under huge development pressure and these awards play an important part in our joint ambition to ensure that where development happens, it is of the highest quality, relating to the unique landscape and using the Chilterns’ traditional palette of materials.

‘Beyond examples set by these awards, the Chilterns Buildings Design Guide is a crucial document in advocating sensitive design both within the AONB and across the wider Chilterns landscape. We are grateful to our partners in Local Planning Authorities across the region for applying it in their planning decisions.’

You can find out more information about the awards and the criteria for entering on the Chiltern Society website: