RIBA Ibstock Downland Prize 2006

RIBA Ibstock Downland Prize 2006

A classical summerhouse announced as overall winner of the RIBA Ibstock Downland Prize 2006

A classical summerhouse designed by George Saumarez Smith has been announced as the overall winner of the RIBA Ibstock Downland Prize 2006. The Prize is awarded annually to an architect in the RIBA South East and South regions whose nominated building best demonstrates the value of using the skills of an architect in a low cost project.

The new summerhouse stands in the grounds of a Grade II* listed house which dates from the mid-18 th century and is located on the edge of a predominantly Georgian town in Hampshire. Various alterations and extensions had been made to the house by Robert Adam Architects, and all parties had been particularly impressed by the quality of brickwork, in particular, with the chief bricklayer, John Howell, and his assistant, Gary Kail. It was decided that the new summerhouse should provide them with a much bigger challenge.

The summerhouse is set within a walled garden and is constructed on the site of an 18th century orangery, which was demolished in the 1930's leaving no records of its appearance. The new design follows the English tradition of architecturally significant garden buildings. Firmly rooted in the classical tradition, it is not a replica of another building, but rather a modern variation on an historic theme. It particularly refers to the work of the Veronese renaissance architect Michele Sanmicheli, (1484-1559) who was a military engineer as well as an architect, and his buildings are generally characterised by their robust simplicity, as well as by skilful handling of the classical orders. The summerhouse also echoes the work of Nicholas Hawskmoor at the Kensington Place Orangery.

Every type of bond can be found in the building, including English, Flemish, Header, English Garden Wall and Monk Bonds. In this way, the summerhouse suggests a giant apprentice piece, traditionally produced to demonstrate the skill of the craftsman in his handling of materials, techniques and finishes. The bricks used were Ibstock Swanage fine sanded handmade red multi facing bricks laid in lime mortar, together with three additional specials designed for the project, and rubbed and gauged arches laid loose in the traditional manner. George Saumarurez Smith commented that: 'Much of the skill of the bricklayers was in making the building appear even and regular whilst using a hand-made brick which naturally varies in size and shape. The degree of accuracy achieved is remarkable. There is really very little tolerance in the design at all, and the bricklayers took extraordinary care to lay every brick with the precision required.' The summerhouse took nine months to build, under the supervision of RJ Smith of Whitchurch, whose recent work at the nearby Grange Opera House had won much praise and admiration for the quality of construction and attention to detail. The summerhouse, which contains a swimming pool, was described by the jury as:

'A delightful, classically inspired, giant "apprentice piece" in a Grade II* setting...' that '...demonstrates both a great eye for design detail and exceptional craftsmanship.'

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