2023 Doolan Best Building award goes to Cuddymoss by Ann Nisbet Studio

The 2023 Doolan Best Building award is given to Cuddymoss, a ruin in north Ayrshire transformed into Scotland's finest building of the year

2023 Doolan Best Building award
(Image credit: David Barbour)

The 2023 Doolan Best Building award has been announced, crowning Cuddymoss by Ann Nisbet Studio the finest building of the year in Scotland. Picked out of a shortlist of four nominees, announced in July, the worthy winner is a little gem of a home; a small but perfectly formed project that transformed a ruin in north Ayrshire into a warm, intensely site specific, and perfectly tailored-to-its-owner dwelling.

2023 Doolan Best Building award winner: Cuddymoss by Ann Nisbet Studio

2023 Doolan Best Building award

(Image credit: David Barbour)

What started as an agricultural structure in ruins in the middle of the Scottish countryside outside Glasgow is now a house in pristine minimalist architecture, devoted in equal parts to both its owner’s lifestyle and needs (he is a keen birdwatcher and nature aficionado); and its natural site and history’s preservation and revival, bringing the structure into the 21st century through respect and quiet ambition.

Surgical interventions to the existing building fabric and carefully decided gestures and materials updated and extended the ruin – all done with an immaculate attention to detail, and a synergetic architect and client collaboration. The result exemplifies rural Scottish residential architecture at its finest.

2023 Doolan Best Building award

(Image credit: David Barbour)

‘All our work is rooted in place and responds to local history, climate, and landscape; however, Cuddymoss was our first opportunity to explore these ideas through an existing ruin,’ says Ann Nisbet, the studio’s founder. ‘There is a general thread through our work that architecture should give back to its wider context by strengthening the local identity, whether that is visually, narratively, or both.

‘In previous projects, such as Newhouse of Auchengree, we created a new building that responded to North Ayrshire’s industrial and agricultural history and their inherent characteristics; this narrative was woven through the new architectural form and chosen materials.

2023 Doolan Best Building award

(Image credit: David Barbour)

‘Cuddymoss was this wonderful opportunity to create a modern building in and around an existing ruin, which celebrated a narrative that was already embedded in the building, [giving] the opportunity to observe and draw attention to the minutiae, the patchwork of repairs, the local materials, the worn step.’

2023 Doolan Best Building award

(Image credit: David Barbour)

The client’s role was also key in the transformation. Nisbet explains how ‘he saw himself as the custodian of the ruin, rather than just the owner’. This added to the project’s appeal, as well as its potential to celebrate the existing structure’s 200-year-old history in an honest way.

‘Cuddymoss was explored through the idea of custodianship rather than ownership. Therefore, there is a strong focus on reuse of the existing building and making use of what materials are already available. The project incorporates ideas around circular economy, reuse, adaptability and demountability, all of which seems very timely in a climate emergency,’ Nisbet says.

2023 Doolan Best Building award

(Image credit: David Barbour)

The home is made up of two main volumes – the restored older one, which contains the main home, including a flowing living space, bedrooms and a study, and a new addition that serves as a breathtaking living area with swathes of glazing to allow full immersion with nature and the elements.

The two volumes are linked by an elegant glass connector that sits discreetly between old and new. The pitched roof, sensitively chosen materials and well-orchestrated openings ensure the overall volume and massing feel at home within the rural surroundings and are in keeping with the region’s vernacular – but with a delicate, contemporary twist.

2023 Doolan Best Building award

(Image credit: David Barbour)

Officially known as The 2023 RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award, the honour's shortlist included Campus Central, University of Stirling by Page\Park Architects; Hundred Acre Wood, Argyll and Bute by Denizen Works; and Laidlaw Music Centre, University of St Andrews by Flanagan Lawrence.

2023 Doolan Best Building award

(Image credit: David Barbour)

RIAS president Chris Stewart PRIAS says: ‘Much of Scotland’s best architecture can be seen in one-off homes, and it was therefore long overdue for a newly designed house to be named winner of the RIAS Doolan Award. Cuddymoss is an outstanding winner – combining Ann Nisbet Studio’s clear concept and design rigour with the client’s deep sense of responsibility to the building and its surrounding landscape. The result is a beautiful building that works extremely well as a home, and is deeply respectful of the original building’s character, heritage and setting.’

Cuddymoss is the first one-off house to win the particular accolade since the Doolan Award’s inception in 2002. 

rias.org.uk

Ellie Stathaki is the Architecture Editor at Wallpaper*. She trained as an architect at the Aristotle University of Thessaloniki in Greece and studied architectural history at the Bartlett in London. Now an established journalist, she has been a member of the Wallpaper* team since 2006, visiting buildings across the globe and interviewing leading architects such as Tadao Ando and Rem Koolhaas. Ellie has also taken part in judging panels, moderated events, curated shows and contributed in books, such as The Contemporary House (Thames & Hudson, 2018) and Glenn Sestig Architecture Diary (2020).