Edinburgh house wins prestigious RIBA award

The winning property. Picture: Contributed.
The winning property. Picture: Contributed.
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THE house that nearly never was – complete with a hidden bath and disappearing walls – has been named house of the year by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

The five-level house on a sandstone terrace on Hart Street, in the Unesco-listed New Town, was the first to be designed by architect Richard Murphy ... for himself.

It boasts a folding corner wall, sliding bookshelf ladders that glide around a secret library and a roof terrace.

But planning officials recommended permission was refused and it was only granted after councillors stepped in.

“They overturned the decision and planning consent was finally given in 2007,” explained Mr Murphy.

Progress was then hampered by the recession. Mr Murphy said: “It was very tough to get planning for this site and then the recession hit.

“I continued to fiddle around with it because I couldn’t resist, but I really just had to twiddle my thumbs and wait.”

The house was completed in Easter 2015 and has been welcomed by Mr Murphy’s Broughton neighbours.

He said: “People in Edinburgh don’t like change. They are initially suspicious and sometimes negative but most of my neighbours have been in and like it.

“I hope they will enjoy this award as well.”

Mr Murphy moved from Calton Hill and is thoroughly enjoying the fun of living in a home he has designed himself.

“Broughton is the best place to live in Edinburgh,” he said. “It is the most fantastic area, like a little village and I am very, very lucky to have found this site.”

The dream Hart Street house draws on design inspiration from Italian architect Carlo Scarpa, someone Mr Murphy has spent 30 years studying, writing about and lecturing on, mirror trickery from Sir John Sloane’s museum and influences from the Maison De Verre “Glass House”.

He has filled the deeply personal space with tricks, surprises and references to his own design heroes.

RIBA president Jane Duncan said: “Nearly a decade in the making, this house is a true labour of love for Richard.

“Part jigsaw puzzle, with its hidden and unexpected spaces, and part Wallace and Gromit with its moving pieces and disappearing walls, this is a model house of pure perfection and a worthy winner of the RIBA house of the year 2016.”

Mr Murphy added: “My company celebrated our 25th birthday last month and to receive this award is a wonderful present and with such astonishing level of public interest.

“It’s our 21st RIBA award and takes its place in a long line of awards for buildings small and large, and for whole variety of types including domestic, educational, health, arts and a new British Embassy.

The announcement of the 2016 RIBA house of the year was broadcast last night during the final episode of Channel 4’s Grand Designs.

Murphy House was the only Scottish entry to be shortlisted, and win, in the national awards.