Social housing project wins 2019 Stirling Prize

By Elinor Stephens
October 17, 2019

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has named Goldsmith Street in Norwich, designed by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley, as the winner of the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize.

The award is annually presented to the UK’s best new building.

Goldsmith Street comprises almost 100 ultra low-energy homes for Norwich City Council. Rows of two-storey houses are bookended by three-storey flats – each with their own front door, plus generous lobby space for prams, bikes and a private balcony.

With sustainability in mind, its solar scheme is designed to minimise fuel bills for residents, which results in the annual energy costs estimated as being 70% lower than for the average household.

To maximise solar gain, all homes face south and every wall is more than 60cm thick and the roofs are angled at 15º to ensure each terrace does not block sunlight from homes in the street behind. Perforated aluminium brise-soleils provide sun shades above the windows and doors.

“Goldsmith Street is a modest masterpiece,” said the panel of judges, which in 2019 was chaired by Julia Barfield, director of Marks Barfield Architects.

“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.

“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.”

Other outstanding shortlisted projects include the Cork House, by Matthew Barnett Howland with Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton, and London Bridge Station by Grimshaw. 

Also nominated were Leicestershire’s Nevill Holt Opera by Witherford Watson Mann Architects, The Macallan Distillery and Visitor Experience, Moray by Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, and The Weston, the visitor centre for Yorkshire Sculpture Park, created by Feilden Fowles Architects.