Winner of Stirling Prize 2008 announced

The UK’s most prestigious architectural award for the Best Building in the UK went to Accordia in Cambridge designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Maccreanor Lavington and Alison Brooks Architects. The prize was presented by Sunand Prasad, RIBA President at the Arena and Convention Centre in Liverpool on October 11, 2008 and was televised live on Channel 4 at 9:00 pm.

The RIBA judges commented:

“This is high-density housing at its very best, demonstrating that volume house-builders can deliver high quality architecture and that as a result they can improve their own bottom line. The whole scheme is about relationships: between architect and developer/contractor/client; between three very different firms of architects Feilden Clegg Bradley, Maccreanor Lavington and Alison Brooks Architects; and between private and public external spaces, providing a new model for outside-inside life with interior rooftop spaces, internal courtyards and large semi-public community gardens.”

This is a strategically important new residential quarter, sited on Cambridge’s last major undeveloped brownfield site in a key position between the city and open fields. The scheme successfully demonstrates that it is possible for a volume house-builder to support high-quality architecture and is regarded as setting new standards for large-scale housing design in the UK. The scheme includes 35% affordable housing.

Kevin McCloud, designer, author and presenter of the Channel 4 program, stated, “This project lays down a new marker, a new benchmark for housing.”

“What we were trying to do in Cambridge was provide almost a series of one-off houses, like the high-street equivalent of haute couture. I think that as you go around these houses you realize how pleased people are. I think what has been so lacking in the housing market is that choice, and that level of quality comes in whether it’s top of the range or the affordable range. That’s what Accordia does, with a huge variety of different homes. That’s why it’s important to have three architects, and that’s why each architect worked with very different typologies,” said Keith Bradley.

Alison Brooks remarked that “I think there’s nothing more important than housing in terms of providing a context in which people can live their lives in a really high-quality environment. It’s the quality, character and identity of the housing in Britain’s cities that has been recognized for centuries. Right now we’re heading for positive change in the housing industry and I think Accordia is spearheading that change.”

And Richard Lavington added, “I believe the greatest success of the scheme is that people love living there, a community has been created. After two years there is already what the residents describe as the ‘annual cricket match’ on the green and families are happy to allow their children to play freely in the various communal gardens and greens and in the mews. We were inspired by Cambridge the idea of a city within a garden and the tradition of the English terraced house, but updated to accommodate the way we live today.”

This high-density scheme, comprising 212 houses and 166 apartments, was designed by an unusual but highly successful collaboration of architects. The master-planning architects were Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and they brought in Maccreanor Lavington and Alison Brooks Architects to design 25% and 10% of the housing respectively, in order to increase variety across the scheme.

The client, Countryside Properties, the contractor, Kajima (UK), the local planning office and all three architects had high ambitions for an exemplary urban community. It acknowledges that adults and children have different needs: there is flexibility for spaces to be adapted as studios, offices, granny annexes, playrooms. With safe shared spaces, children are given opportunities for shared stimulating play and experience a freedom rarely found in modern housing developments.

Unusually for the UK, there are no large private gardens, usually the most popular option with householders. Instead there are large communal spaces, combined with a wide variety of smaller private open areas in the form of inner courtyards and balconies. The landscaping is of an exceptionally high quality, designed by Grant Associates.

The development has proved enormously popular with residents and demonstrates the strength of a committed and highly supportive local authority.

The scheme has already won numerous awards: Housing Design Awards overall winner (2006); Building for Life Awards: Gold Standard (2006); National Homebuilder Design Awards (2006); Civic Trust (2007).

Accordia beat a strong shortlist: Amsterdam Bijlmer Arena Station in Amsterdam by Grimshaw and ARCADIS Architecten; Manchester Civil Justice Centre in Manchester by Denton Corker Marshall; Nord Park Cable Railway in Innsbruck by Zaha Hadid Architects; Royal Festival Hall in London by Allies and Morrison; and Westminster Academy at the Naim Dangoor Centre in London by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris.

The award was sponsored by the Architects’ Journal and the judges were architect Eva Jiricna of Eva Jiricna Architects; architect Gordon Murray of Murray Dunlop Architects; architect Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects; Kieran Long, editor of The Architects’ Journal; and garden designer Diarmuid Gavin of Diarmuid Gavin Designs.