Social housing development wins Stirling Prize for first time

A development of council homes in Norwich was last night named the UK’s best new building after winning prestigious 2019 Stirling Prize.

© Tim Crocker

Designed by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley for Norwich City Council, ‘Goldsmith Street’ was the first ever social housing development to be shortlisted for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) prize.

It is also the UK’s largest development to be built to Passivhaus standard.

© Matthew Pattenden

The project for Norwich City Council is made up of almost 100 highly energy-efficient homes. Rows of two-storey houses are bookended by three-storey flats, each with their own front door, generous lobby space for prams and bikes, and a private balcony.

The back gardens of the central terraces share a secure ‘ginnel’ (alleyway) for children to play together, and a wide landscaped walkway for the community runs directly through the middle of the estate. Parking has been pushed to Goldsmith Street’s outer edges, making sure that people, not cars, own the streets.

© Matthew Pattenden

Goldsmith Street also meets rigorous Passivhaus standards – remarkable for a dense, mass housing development. It is a passive solar scheme, designed to minimise fuel bills for residents: annual energy costs are estimated to be 70% cheaper than for the average household.

Even the smallest details have been thought about: letterboxes are built into external porches to reduce any possibility of draughts, and perforated aluminium ‘brise-soleils’ provide sun shades above windows and doors.

© Tim Crocker

The Stirling Prize is judged against a range of criteria including design vision; innovation and originality; capacity to stimulate, engage and delight occupants and visitors; accessibility and sustainability; how fit the building is for its purpose and the level of client satisfaction.

Goldsmith Street beat off competition from:

  • Cork House by Matthew Barnett Howland with Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton
  • The Macallan Distillery and Visitor Experience by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
  • London Bridge Station by Grimshaw
  • Nevill Holt Opera by Witherford Watson Mann Architects
  • The Weston, Yorkshire Sculpture Park by Feilden Fowles Architects

The 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize judges, chaired by Julia Barfield, said: “Goldsmith Street is a modest masterpiece. It is high-quality architecture in its purest, most environmentally and socially conscious form.

“Behind restrained creamy façades are impeccably-detailed, highly sustainable homes – an incredible achievement for a development of this scale.

© Tim Crocker

“This is proper social housing, over ten years in the making, delivered by an ambitious and thoughtful council. These desirable, spacious, low-energy properties should be the norm for all council housing.”

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