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Stirling Prize 2019: Norwich's ultra low-energy Goldsmith Street council homes win Riba architecture award

The i logo The i 08/10/2019
a brick building © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

A Norwich housing estate comprised of almost 100 "ultra low-energy homes" has won the Stirling prize, architecture’s top award.

The city's Goldsmith Street was named the UK's best new building by the Royal Institute Of British Architects (Riba).

It finished ahead of a field of nominees including a house built from cork in Berkshire and a "hi-tech and futuristic" distillery in Scotland.

'People own street, not cars'

Goldsmith Street © Press Association Goldsmith Street

Goldsmith Street, built for Norwich City Council, was praised by judges for its design ensuring "people own the streets, not their cars".

The development is arranged in seven terraced blocks - modelled on nearby Victorian streets - and features rows of two-storey houses bookended by three-storey flats.

Insulation and light-absorbing materials mean the houses do not rely on any fuel-heating methods.

Even the letterboxes, built into external porches, have been specially designed to reduce draughts and save energy.

No fuel-heating methods needed

a large brick building with grass in front of a house © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

All the homes face south and the roofs are angled at 15 degrees to ensure each terrace does not block sunlight from homes in the street behind.

Parking is pushed to the outer edges of the estate, while a wide landscaped walkway for communal gatherings runs through the site.

The development is arranged in seven terraced blocks - modelled on nearby Victorian streets - and features rows of two-storey houses bookended by three-storey flats (Photo: Riba)

Alan Jones, RIBA President Alan Jones said Goldsmith Street was a “beacon of hope…not just as a transformative social housing scheme and eco-development, but a pioneering exemplar for other local authorities to follow.”

'Modest masterpiece'

Julia Barfield, chair of judges, hailed a “modest masterpiece. Behind restrained creamy façades are impeccably-detailed, highly sustainable homes – an incredible achievement for a development of this scale. These desirable, spacious, low-energy properties should be the norm for all council housing."

David Mikhail of architects Mikhail Riches, which designed the street, said: “We hope other local authorities will be inspired to deliver beautiful homes for people who need them the most, and at an affordable price.”

The RIBA Stirling Prize, first established in 1996, is the UK’s most prestigious architecture award. It is given to the architect of the building thought to be the most significant of the year for the evolution of architecture and the built environment.

Stirling Prize - runners-up

a view of a living room with a fireplace and a large window © Provided by Johnston Publishing Ltd

Cork House, Berkshire by Matthew Barnett Howland with Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton. Built from expanded cork blocks, made using cork stopper waste, the structure will emit almost no carbon over its lifespan.

London Bridge Station by Grimshaw. The main concourse was reopened last year after six years of work. The station now holds 15 rail platforms and a refurbished underground entrance.

Nevill Holt Opera, Leicestershire by Witherford Watson Mann Architects. The original 17th century theatre mixes old elements like its ironstone walls with a new rectangular roof and balcony.

The Macallan Distillery and Visitor Experience, Moray by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners. A new grass-covered roof that is cut into the slope of the land is made up of 2,500 triangles of Scandinavian wood and other natural materials.

The Weston, Yorkshire Sculpture Park by Feilden Fowles Architects. £3.6 million new Park centre includes a concrete saw-tooth roof and scalloped crown perched on top of the sunken building.

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