2023Manser Medal Winner

a former Devon dairy farm

‘This house ticked so many boxes,’ said one judge of the standout winner of The Manser Medal – AJ House of the Year. ‘It makes a great home and prioritises sustainability – all on a constrained budget. A tour de force.’

The house – Cowshed by David Kohn Architects – was created out of a converted shed on a Devon dairy farm, the last of five buildings to be converted to residential use to create a small co-housing community.

‘An exemplar of the best of retrofit,’ said another. ‘Brilliant not just as a reuse project but as a regeneration of a site. It’s so interwoven and integrated with the context.’ ‘Sustainability at a whole different level,’ commented another.
Particular praise was reserved for the design and detailing of the interiors. ‘It’s so carefully crafted, taking advantage of all the weirdness of the existing cowshed. There’s a really nice play with levels and an honesty to the reuse, like a tapestry of time, telling a life story. I particularly enjoyed the line where one type of blockwork ran out during the pandemic, like the sedimentary rock of Covid.’

The architect-client relationship was praised too. ‘It sang through the building,’ said one judge. ‘It was so great to see the clients living in it, loving it and happy.’

The long-standing prize recognises the best completed house in the UK and was named after the renowned British architect Michael Manser (1929-2016), a former RIBA president and Royal Academician. The medal became part of the AJ Architecture Awards again in 2019.

The Manser Medal was launched in 2001 to inspire innovation in house design and began life in partnership with the AJ. The inaugural winning project was Cezary Bednarski’s 1A Merthyr Terrace in Barnes; other winners have included Mole Architects’ Black House in 2004 and Skene Catling de la Peña’s Flint House in Buckinghamshire in 2015.

All 8 finalists were visited by an expert judging panel that included Pollard Thomas Edwards senior adviser Teresa Borsuk, AKT II design director Kieron Taylor and Ian Chalk Architects associate Giles Wheeldon.


David Kohn Architects
Bedford House,
125-133 Camden High St,
London NW1 7JR

T: 020 7424 8596


“We are absolutely delighted to receive the 2023 Manser Medal for Cowshed. I remember the jury visit well and the engaged conversations around reuse, community-building and client relationships. I hope the award will further the cause of these important issues.”

David Kohn

What the judges said:

“This house ticked so many boxes,’ said one judge: ‘It makes a great home and prioritises sustainability – all on a constrained budget. A tour de force.”