Schaefer house, Cheshire

Revisiting RIBA Award winners

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RIBA PLACES MATTERWhat makes a RIBA Award winner? In this special report, sponsored by RIBA and Places Matter!, we speak to the planners, developers, occupiers and architects of winning buildings to find out.


2008 Bluecoat, Liverpool

2008 Abito, Greengate, Salford

2009 BDP Studio, Manchester

2009 Three Towers, Manchester

2009 Liverpool One masterplan

2010 Chips, Manchester

2010 Pier Head canal link, Liverpool

2010 Peter's Lane and site 7 Paradise Street, Liverpool One

2010 LJMU Art & Design Academy

2010 New Roundhouse, Manchester

▼2009 Private House, Bramhall, Stockport

House pictured above

Architect: MBLA Architects + Urbanists

Client: Peter and Avy Schaefer

Structural engineer: Scott Hughes Design

Contractor: Construction North West

Contract value: £452,000

Date of occupation: February 2008

Gross internal area: 286 sq m

The architect, John Riley, associate, MBLA: The Schaefer House was designed for a recently retired couple in a leafy suburb of Cheshire. The clients required a contemporary design which would allow them to continue their active life style and stay independent as long as possible.

Designed to wrap around the north and east sides of an established garden the design was developed to provide generous amounts of natural light within the internal spaces, to link with and extend the interior spaces into the landscape, whilst balancing these aspects with a sense of secure enclosure and control of solar heat gain.

The period from inception to completion was almost six years and involved the development of several designs.

The first scheme was refused planning permission on the grounds that it would detract from the character and appearance of the area and that in terms of outlook and visual impact it would have a significant and adverse effect on its neighbour to the north.

On appeal the inspector agreed that the design would have an adverse effect on its neighbour but that it would not detract from the character and appearance of the area. The proposed house was subsequently reduced in height and length at first floor level – with the agreement and support of the neighbour and granted planning permission.

The final scheme was used by the local authority for an in-house planning seminar on design excellence and went on to be awarded a conservation and design excellence award by Stockport Council in 2009.

The role and input of the clients within the design and procurement process cannot be over stated. The determination and enthusiasm for achieving their dream home throughout the many set-backs experienced at each stage of the process was quite extraordinary. The Schaefers were involved in all design decisions whilst Mr Schaefer acted as contract administrator throughout the course of the contract.

The proposed construction programme had been six months, however site works over ran by almost 100% for which neither the client nor design team were responsible.

As a designer it is extremely satisfying to be advised by your client that they love what you have designed. The way the spaces change with the changing natural daylight provides a measure of surprised delight and enjoyment for the clients on a daily basis which they did not expect. They have been pleasantly surprised at the positive response their new home has evinced from friends and strangers alike.

The Schaefers have been delighted that the house has received a number of awards including a RIBA award. We were similarly pleased not least because the awards acknowledge in some way the commitment, input and enthusiasm of a quite remarkable couple: Peter and Avy Schaefer.

The judges: A remarkable partnership between architects MBLA and the family has created a contemporary home which rejoices in its use of light, space and enclosure. The project generates a sense of calm delight. The single storey building sits in a street of suburban villas and creates a refreshing and challenging response to the mores of suburbia. The L-shaped plan encloses the entire private garden which becomes an external room once the full height glazed screens to the main living space are opened.

The house celebrates light, making repeated use of rooflights in almost all rooms. It also has a pleasing simplicity of materials and details which makes the home at once intimate and also robust in its architectural form.

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