The RIBA House of the Year winner 2019: House Lessans


A bow to simplicity and values rooted in maternal landscapes, House Lessans is the winner of the RIBA House of the Year 2019 award.

RISE House Lessans copyright Aidan McGrath

When we think of contemporary architecture and high-quality design, we often picture modern trends, futuristic looks, and scary budgets. House Lessans reminds us that those preconceptions are just aesthetic preferences. High-quality contemporary architecture is characterised by adhering to larger values that are present throughout our society: acknowledgement of the delicate nature of the environment, an effort to utilise new technologies to drive tangible progress instead of for their own sake, or a shift from admiring grand appearances to appreciating quality.

House Lessans encompasses all of these contemporary values. It does so with a simple and tasteful exterior that nods at the typologies of the setting. The reference to the barns scattered around the Northern Irish landscape is apparent at first glance, and it fits in seamlessly with the subtle design decisions that habilitate a domestic program within the three-building complex. The budget is modest, but in no way compromises the end result.

The interior, equally subdued and graceful, focuses on atmospheric over shock value. The grey blockwork, white plaster, and timber flooring palette is reminiscent of misty farming fields without being literal, and the outdoors is ever-present through the use of natural light and the careful detailing of windows that bring the grassy landscape to the very edge of the rooms.

Looking at the project, it is a pleasure to admire the compositional skills of architect McGonigle McGrath. The result is a monument to architectural language; a true achievement of the art of making and curating.

Image ©  Aidan McGrath

Why employ an architect?


The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has produced a guide for engaging an architect. It includes some important topics, such as: appointing an architect, developing a brief, project leadership, fee options and legislation. In the next few posts on our blog, we summarise the main points listed in the guide, to help prospective and current clients enhance their understanding of why and how to work with an architect.

Working with an architect london

Checking your architect’s credentials

In the UK, a ‘architect’ must be registered with the Architects Registration Board (ARB). Registered architects must adhere to the ARB Standards of Conduct and Practice, and the ARB can take action against those who fall short of the expected standards. RIBA also maintains a Code of Practice and expects its members to work with integrity and honesty. Architects practising in the UK who are registered with the ARB and are also Chartered Members of RIBA are entitled to describe themselves as ‘Chartered Architects’. RISE Design Studio is a RIBA Chartered Practice.

Added value

An architect can bring many benefits to your project and it’s not just about supplying you with drawings. An architect has experience to see your project safely through design, planning and building regulations, and construction. For a building project, the range of services an architect can provide includes:

– investigating the feasibility of the requirements;
– developing design proposals;
– applying for statutory approvals;
– preparing construction information;
– obtaining tenders for building work;
– administering a building contract; and
– interior design and landscaping services.

Appointing an architect

Architects who are members of RIBA are required by the Code of Professional Conduct to record the terms of any appointment before undertaking any work, and to have the necessary competence and resources.

It is in the architect’s and the client’s interests to understand their agreement, which should define and record the services to be provided and identify terms and conditions. RIBA provides a range of flexible Appointment Agreements, which an architect can use with all types of projects.

Agreeing the terms of the project

An agreement defines the obligations of each party and makes provisions for the assignment, fees, payments, copyright, liability, suspension, termination and dispute resolution. An agreement will also comprise the conditions, schedule of services and formal confirmation of the contract in a memorandum of agreement or letter of appointment.

Generally, the architect retains copyright of the information produced for your project (in accordance with the law). Architects are required to maintain professional indemnity insurance in respect of their liability to the client.

What an architect agrees to do

In general, an architect undertakes to:

– use reasonable skill and care;
– keep the client informed of progress and on issues affecting time, cost or quality;
– co-operate with other appointed designers/constructions team(s);
– only make alterations to the approved deisng with the client’s prior approval.

The role of the client

As a client, you would undertake to:

– advise on the relative priorities of your requirements;
– provide necessary and accurate information;
– appoint other consultants and specialists required under separate agreements;
– comply with CDM regulations if the project is not at your home (see next blog post);
– take decisions and respond promptly to approvals sought by your architect;
– pay the fees, expenses etc. due and VAT where applicable;
– employ a building contractor under a separate contract if proceeding with construction work.

In our next post, we’ll look at developing a brief and project leadership. If you would like to discuss a project, please contact us. You can browse our recent projects here.

Read a copy of the RIBA guide to working with an architect for your home.

What can a RIBA Chartered Architect do for you?


A typical residential project from concept to completion

Carrying out a residential project can seem like a daunting proposition, from designing a scheme and acquiring planning permission to overseeing construction. To help you understand the advantages of appointing a RIBA Chartered Architect, this month we walk through a typical residential project and explain our role in this process.

Residential architecture project West London

Whether your proposal is a unique, new-build home or you wish to renovate an existing building, an architect will be able to supervise and oversee a project from an initial draft design to the completion of construction. This blog has been written to describe how an architect can add value to your project, and lead the way for its successful delivery. It gives an introduction to the services that an architect is able to provide and also the terms of a client-architect agreement

Appointing an architect

A good working relationship with your architect is crucial for delivering a successful project. It is advisable to choose an architect with experience and a style which is relevant to your project and ambitions, and a track record of successful planning applications within the local authority.

At the outset, the architect will meet with you, the Client, to understand the vision you have for your home, ascertain your budget and discuss your requirements.

An architect’s fees vary depending on the location, how complex the project is, and how involved you would like the architect to be during construction stage. How much you use an architect is up to you: you may need some general advice, a selection of initial sketches or more detailed drawings, or on-site support when the construction starts. It is important that you and your architect discuss and agree on the cost and scope of the services that will be provided, before the project begins. RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects) recommends that the agreements you make at the outset are put in writing (you can use the RIBA Agreement forms, if you wish).

The stages for projects are well represented by RIBA Plan of Work 2013, as follows:

Stage 0 Strategic Definition
Stage 1 Preparation and Brief
Stage 2 Concept Design (Initial Options)
Stage 3 Developed Design (Planning Submission)
Stage 4 Technical Design (Building Regulations and Tender Issue)
Stage 5 Construction (Contract Administration and Contractor Queries)
Stage 6 Handover and Close Out
Stage 7 In Use (Post Completion Building Performance Monitoring)

For more detailed information, see the Plan of Work on the RIBA website.

Following the initial meeting, an architect will help you as Client create a Client Brief, which considers the existing condition of the building (if renovation and/or extension), design and function of the proposals. Initial sketch options would be drawn up for your approval, before ideas are developed further, and overall project timings and a budget would also be defined.

When you have approved the initial sketch options, more detailed drawings would be produced. Safety guidelines and building regulations would be incorporated into the design, with floor plans including discussions with a Structural Engineer and Mechanical & Electrical Engineer (for larger more complex projects). Further discussion would take place about the fine detail of the design, including sustainability, daylight, lighting, storage, and ergonomic functionality. Once you are happy with the final design, the architect will help you to navigate the planning approvals required before the project can begin, including the preparation of planning applications to the local authority where needed, and building regulations approval.

If you do not have a construction/building company in mind, an architect can put the project out to tender on your behalf, awarding the project to a general contractor. Once construction begins, an architect can act as an intermediary between you and the builders, contractors and interior designers (where applicable) and other consultants (landscape architect, audio visual specialist, kitchen specialist, lighting specialist, etc). The architect will also inspect the construction work (if included in their appointment) in terms of meeting the standards required, and delivering the project on time and within budget.

An architect is qualified to manage the whole project, interpreting your ideas, solving any problems that may arise, and ensuring that you are happy with the overall finished product.

Please see here to view some of our recent residential projects, or visit us at our studio to see our full portfolio of work.

Our professional affiliations


RISE Design Studio Ltd is a member of The Green Register and registered with the Architects Registration Board. Our Director, Sean Ronnie Hill, is a Chartered Member of the Royal Institute of British Architects, the professional association of architects in the UK. This post provides some information about these organisations and the interests they represent.

Professional affiliations

The Green Register of Construction Professionals is a not-for-profit membership organisation that promotes sustainable building practices to all of the disciplines within the construction industry. Core activities of the organisation include: training on sustainable building practices; maintaining a register of members (all members undergo at least two days of Green Register training; and networking to allow knowledge exchange. Sustainable architecture is central to our work (see our recent post on the topic) and the publicly-available register of members is a useful source for potential clients looking for architects and other construction professionals who are committed to sustainable building. The Green Register website also hosts a very useful blog for those interested in sustainable building techniques, news, discussion and legislation.

The Architects Registration Board (ARB) is an independent, public interest body that was established by the UK Parliament in 1997 to regulate the architecture profession in the UK. ARB prescribes the qualifications required to become an architect and ensures that architects meet the standards for conduct and practice. All architects in the UK must be registered with ARB. ARB maintains the UK Register of Architects, which lists qualified architects and is available to search on the ARB website. The ARB website also provides a wealth of information for members of the public and provides some guidance on key topics to discuss with an architect if embarking on an architecture project.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA)  is also connected with the architects across the UK but has a slightly different role to the ARB. With around 44,000 members, RIBA promotes architecture and provides professional training and support. RIBA also maintains the British Architectural Library, which houses over four million items, including architecture books and papers. Since 2004, the Victoria and Albert Museum (V&A) and RIBA have worked together to promote enjoyment and appreciation of architecture, with the Architecture Gallery at the V&A being home to the first permanent gallery dedicated to the subject in the UK. RIBA is also known for running several architecture awards, including the Stirling Prize for ‘Best New Building of the Year’.