Hertfordshire lecturer’s tiny summer house design wins prestigious New York architecture award

A widely-acclaimed architecture project by University of Hertfordshire Architecture Lecturer Eva Sopeoglou has won a prestigious Architizer A+ Award in New York.

The ‘Summer House in Halkidiki,’ Greece (or ‘The Olive Tree house’), which explores the themes of shading, sustainability and human comfort in architecture, won the Popular Choice award in the Architecture + Light category, after making it to the final five projects competing to win the coveted international prize.

It follows months of award success for the project, which won the 2016 Surface Design Awards in London last year for ‘Light and Surface Exterior’, followed by ‘Best First Project by a Young Architect 2012-2016’ in the 2017 DOMES International Review of Architecture awards in Athens.

The Olive Tree House is a low-maintenance weekend home located on a pristine olive grove hill overlooking the sea, and beyond towards the famous monasteries of Mount Athos. The building forms part of an enquiry into sustainability and the provision for human comfort in architecture, by questioning the definition of inside and outside inhabitable space.

All building components were pre-fabricated, nevertheless, the design itself carefully considers the sun’s position to provide shading and to complement the views. The 3m by 7m rectangular plan is aligned to the cardinal points and it is sub-divided into smaller rooms. A corridor connects these spaces but also aligns with the adjacent olive trees which, thus, become integral to the house’s layout.

The exterior envelope is a lightweight metallic surface which wraps around and it is movable, to provide maximum flexibility. The envelope’s perforated textile-like pattern is inspired by the shade of the olive trees. As the sun moves during the course of the day the interior spaces are filled with ever-changing shadows.

Eva said:

“I’m absolutely thrilled to have won an Architizer A+ Award. Being shortlisted for this prize and subsequent win reflects the sheer amount of attention this tiny house design has attracted.

“Not only is this a built project but it also forms part of my practice-based research, which examines environmental design, human comfort and the relationship between indoor and outdoor spaces and their surrounding landscape. It also looks at how to practically fabricate an intricate exterior metallic envelope using cutting edge digital techniques and machinery.

“The exposed exterior of the house implies that inhabitants are living in semi-outdoor conditions, and are therefore partly exposed to the climate, which has generated wide discussion within architecture circles and on social media. It has really split opinions and stirred up debate around whether or not this is comfortable and what comfort actually is in the first place. For me this is wonderful, because as a researcher it proves that my work is creating an impact. Of course, it was designed to be comfortable, nevertheless, this is achieved through unconventional and subtle means.”

The participation to the New York competition was made possible by the Small Grant for Research Impact funding Eva received from the University of Hertfordshire a few months ago.

The Architizer A+ Awards received entries from 100 countries and represents the best of architecture and design worldwide.