The 25th Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize was awarded to Kingston University London – Town House, designed by Grafton Architects.
The jury for the 2021 RIBA Stirling Prize included Lord Norman Foster (Chair), Simon Allford (RIBA President), architect Annalie Riches (2019 RIBA Stirling Prize winner) and artist Dame Phyllida Barlow. The panel was advised by architect Mina Hasman (Sustainability Expert). RIBA’s Stirling Prize has been awarded almost annually since 1996 (except for 2020 where it was delayed due to coronavirus) to recognise buildings deemed to have the most significant impact on British Architecture.
The Town House extends the public realm as it is set back from the street, boldly presenting a 200m long, six-storey structure with a colonnade that beautifully showcases Michelmersh’s Freshfield Lane First Quality Multi Bricks amongst the shelves of connected public space.
The value of social cohesion and the spirit of learning were successfully captured through the conscientious and dynamic design by Grafton Architects, who created a democratic and open space, allowing for a sense of home and belonging. The open spaces that permeate the building break down barriers between the University and the local community, showing that the Town House is a place for everyone.
Commitments to sustainability are showcased throughout by thoughtfully placed colonnades that create solar shading – this cools the building and reduced energy consumption – urban draining, a photovoltaic array, roof gardens and landscaping. The outer brickwork also provides increased thermal retention, adding to the sustainable credentials of the building. The Town House received an environmental certification of BREEAM Excellent.
Internally the building is considerate of the different uses students and staff have for the space. Dance studios, libraries and theatres are incorporated seamlessly with an acoustic design, allowing for them to operate with minimal overlap. On the ground floor, open, transparent façades allow passers-by to view the activities happening inside with views being more shaded in the upper levels.
Speaking on behalf of the 2021 RIBA Stirling Prize jury, Lord Norman Foster, said: “Kingston University Town House is a theatre for life – a warehouse of ideas. It seamlessly brings together student and town communities, creating a progressive new model for higher education, well deserving of international acclaim and attention. In this highly original work of architecture, quiet reading, loud performance, research and learning, can delightfully co-exist. That is no mean feat. Education must be our future – and this must be the future of education.”
Kingston University Town House was described by RIBA judges as “high quality at every scale” and Michelmersh is proud to contribute high-quality products towards such an architecturally notable building.
Frank Hanna, Joint CEO of Michelmersh, was keen to relay congratulations on the project: “Seeing Grafton Architects incorporate our Freshfield Lane First Quality Multi Bricks into the project is great and it is fantastic to see brickwork recognised at the pinnacle of architectural excellence. Grafton truly deserves the praise they receive for designing such an excellent project. Incorporating open spaces into the building is a unique way to coalesce the natural zeal of a university with the thoughtful consideration of a welcoming environment”.
Images copyright © Ed Reeve
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