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No 1 Centaur Street

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Stirling Prize 2003

The AJ First Building Award in association with Robin Ellis Design and Construction

De Rijke Marsh Morgan's £1 million apartment block for Solid Space Development, set hard against a Eurostar viaduct in central London, represents the intention to invent a new typology: a hybrid of the European horizontal apartment and the English vertical terraced house.

The judges said: 'The project is the product of the collaboration between an intelligent and brave client and an intelligent and brave architect. The site is initially unpromising, set between a railway arch on one side and a row of listed buildings on the other, leading to acoustic and planning constraints. But as in many of the best buildings, constraints have prompted innovative solutions borne out of lateral thinking. Most striking is the use of in situ concrete as both structure and internal finish, giving both physical protection (from noise) and also psychological protection (from the ravages of the city beyond).

'The concrete also allows flexibility in the spatial solution for the interiors. The obvious solution would have been to stack up four floors of repetitive loft-type space.

Instead, the client and architect devised a more innovative system of two-storey apartments on the ground floor with three-storey apartments over, leading to a spatial (and social) richness. To achieve this sense of spatial delight in a one-off house would have been commendable - to get it on a tight urban site for speculative private housing - is really remarkable. The north-facing apartments have winter gardens, double-height spaces of glassy luxury.And best of all are the roof decks that sit at the same level as the main railway lines curving out of Waterloo with Big Ben glimpsed beyond - an intense London experience under big skies.

'Materially, the project demonstrates architects' research into new building materials: everyday, prefabricated, and often surprising. The outside is clad in a rainscreen made out of wood-grained fibrous cement boards, usually employed for North American kit houses. It sounds tacky but, in the way it is detailed and spaced, the cladding feels completely appropriate for the toughness of the site. Elsewhere, the roughness of the in situ concrete is juxtaposed with rich linings of walnut veneer, the latter imbuing the former with a certain luxury.

This is a project that pushes at the edges of architecture, both materially and spatially. It breaks normal rules of decorum and refinement and is all the better for that.'

Adams Kara Taylor was the engineer and Parkway Construction was the contractor.

OTHER SHORTLISTED ENTRIES l Aberdeen Lane House in Islington, north London by Azman Owens Architects l Think Tank in west Ireland by Gumuchdjian Architects l Cowley Manor Hotel & Spa in Gloucestershire by De Matos Storey Ryan

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