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Cardiff boasts four of the best.

THEY are the five best-designed houses in Wales - and four of them can be found within five miles of the capital. Announcing the winners in the first-ever Welsh Housing Design Awards, the Royal Society of Architects explained the judging criteria which resulted in only one winning house not being based in the Cardiff area. The winning schemes, including the former AA building which has been transformed into an exclusive apartment block in the capital, were: # The Aspect, Queen Street, Cardiff, designed by Broadway Malyan; # Raisdale Road, Penarth, de-signed by Loyn & Co Architects;# New Horizons, Sully, design-ed by Graham Brooks; # The House for the Future, Museum of Welsh Life St Fagans, designed by Jestico & Whiles; # Ty Newydd, Caernarfon, designed by architect-owner Mare-dudd ab Iestyn. Hosting the awards at a Cardiff Bay ceremony attended by Environment Minister Sue Essex, was Professor Malcolm Parry, former head of the Welsh School of Architecture at Cardiff University and presenter of BBC programmes including On the House and House for the Fu-t u re . He said, ``The awards have shown a terrific quality and some very interesting buildings.

``There was no feeling from the judges' point of view that they were trying to get a spread of houses throughout the country.

``They were looking for the most interesting and creative buildings, and it is likely that more of these will be in the South East, where the mass of population lives.

``But one of the winners was in Caernarfon, and another of the short-listed buildings was in Aberaeron, so the competition was not all Cardiff-dominated.''

With two of the winning homes - Ty Newydd and New Horizons - costing less than pounds 75,000 to build, the organisers claim that the message is that good design needn't cost more. Architect Maredudd ab Iestyn designed his award-winning selfbuild house, Ty Newydd in Caernarfon, where he lives with his part-ner and daughter. He said, ``With a self-build project it is possible to build contemporary housing in Wales on a tight budget. ``You have got to prioritise and be sensible - you could spend pounds 15,000 on a kitchen in a poky room, but I would rather spend pounds 1,000 on it and make sure the lighting and space was used to the best advantage.''

On being the only winner based outside the South East of the country, he said, ``To be fair, there's a hell of a lot more building going on in South Wales, but I hope by winning this I've shown that good design needn't be just a `cities thing'.

``I would like to think there are other well-designed houses outside cities - although, to be honest, I can't think of many off the top of my head. ``Hopefully Ty Newydd will be an example that will inspire people.'' Some would argue that affordability isn't the first word that springs to mind with multimillionpound development The Aspect, the former AA building at the end of Cardiff's Queen Street.

The 99-apartment block houses a range of one, two and three bedroom apartments and penthouse with prices ranging from pounds 135,500 for a one-bedroom apartment to pounds 408,000 for a three-bedroom penthouse.

Owners come from as far afield as Kuwait, Mauritius, Bermuda, Brunei, Dublin, Jersey and Guernsey and it was rumoured that rock star Cerys Matthews had shown an interest in the development.

The House for the Future at St Fagans was inspired by a joint Museum of Welsh Life/BBC Wales competition to design a house showing how housing in Wales could evolve over the next 50 years.

The other winners were private developments - New Horizons is a Scandinavian-style long house in Sully designed by RSAW outstanding achievement award winner Graham Brooks for his son and daughter-in-law to live in.

The other, Evan and Jennifer Davies's home in Raisdale Road, Penarth, was praised for its bold, positive style in a conservation area.

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Sue Essex said, ``In Wales, we have some very well-designed buildings, but perhaps far too many mediocre ones.

``These awards show that good design and a pleasing environment have a major impact on quality of life in Wales.''

Judges Paul Monaghan of Allford Hall Monaghan Morris, Paul Vanner of Burgess Partnership Limited and Phil Roach of Pembrokeshire Coast National Park Authority gave their views on the winning designs (right).

THE ASPECT, QUEEN STREET, CARDIFF:

``The conversion of a 1960s commercial office block into an elegant block of apartments, with proposed groundfloor cafs and lifestyle centre [the architect was Ian Simpson, pictured], has removed an eyesore in the centre of Cardiff. The additional two floors and the constraints of the existing structure have been cleverly integrated with a new external skin incorporating extensive balconies, giving it an appearance of a new build project.''

RAISDALE ROAD, PENARTH.

Loyn and Co were the architects of this private home.

Pictured is the architect Chris Loyn. The judges said: ``The development of this 'end of garden' infill site in the heart of a conservation area has been handled in a positive and bold manner. The dramatic use of curved roofs and bold colours provides a strong contrast with the surrounding properties. The assessors were particularly attracted to the design and detailing of the external forms and, in particular, the carefully considered relationship between the internal and external spaces.''

NEW HORIZONS, SULLY: Architect Graham Brooks

(pictured). The verdict: ``The assessors were impressed by the simple, well-planned internal layout with an abundant use of fair-faced brickwork and naturally finished timber ceilings. The project represented very good value for money, providing a well-insulated and attractive house of timeless, unassuming Scandinavian quality.''

HOUSE FOR THE FUTURE, ST FAGANS: Architect: Jude Harris (pictured) of Jestico & Whiles.

The house's design and construction was the subject of a television series. ``The assessors considered the building provided a welcome model for sustainable elements which could and should be integrated into all housing solutions. The sustainable methods used in construction were subtly displayed and the building fabric displayed a modern and sympathetic appeal to visitors.''

TY NEWYDD, CAERNARFON:

Private development for architectowner, Maredudd ab Iestyn.

``Situated in a suburban street with distant views of the Menai Straits, this small detached property constructed in the 'back garden' of the adjacent house is an architectural gem set in the surrounding banality of new speculative and established seaside architecture. Although modest in scale and as unassuming as its architect-owner, the property is a delightful example of how good design can be achieved on a modest budget.''

HOST: Professer Malcolm Parry
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Publication:Western Mail (Cardiff, Wales)
Geographic Code:4EUUW
Date:Dec 12, 2002
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