Eco-friendly Norwich council estate named UK’s best new building

Eco-friendly Norwich council estate named UK’s best new building

Goldsmith Street in Norwich has been named as the winner of the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize. The honour is awarded annually by The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) to the UK’s best new building.

The architecture award, first established in 1996, is presented to the architect of the building thought to be the most significant of the year for the evolution of architecture and the built environment.

Goldsmith Street, designed by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley, is comprised of almost 100 ultra low-energy homes for Norwich City Council.

In contrast to the higher-rise flats in the surrounding area, Goldsmith Street is arranged in seven terrace blocks, with rows of two-storey houses bookended by three-storey flats, each with their own front door.

The outside space sees the back gardens of the central terraces share a secure alleyway for children to play together as well as a wide landscaped walkway for communal gatherings, which runs through the middle of the estate. Parking has been pushed to the outer edges of the development.

The project meets ‘Passivhaus’ environmental standards and is a passive solar scheme, designed to minimise fuel bills for residents.

Measures to maximise solar gain include: all homes face south, every wall is over 600mm thick, and the roofs are angled at 15 degrees to ensure each terrace does not block sunlight from homes in the street behind.

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. 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.

RIBA president Alan Jones said: “Faced with a global climate emergency, the worst housing crisis for generations and crippling local authority cuts, Goldsmith Street is a beacon of hope. It is commended not just as a transformative social housing scheme and eco-development, but a pioneering exemplar for other local authorities to follow.”

David Mikhail of Mikhail Riches, said: “Goldsmith Street’s success is testimony to the vision and leadership of Norwich City Council. We thank them for their commitment and support. They believe that council housing tenants deserve great design.

“It is not often we are appointed to work on a project so closely aligned with what we believe matters; buildings people love which are low impact. We hope other local authorities will be inspired to deliver beautiful homes for people who need them the most, and at an affordable price.”

Goldsmith Street beat shortlisted projects Cork House in Berkshire, London Bridge Station, Nevill Holt Opera in Leicestershire, the Macallan Distillery and Visitor Experience, Moray and the Weston at Yorkshire Sculpture Park.