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Mikhail Riches’ Norwich council housing wins inaugural Neave Brown Award

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Mikhail Riches and Cathy Hawley’s Norwich council housing has won the first-ever Neave Brown Award for Housing, set up in honour of the late council housing pioneer 

The Norwich City Council-built Goldsmith Street scooped the award this evening (8 October) at the Stirling Prize party in Camden, where it is also in the running for the main prize.

The practice saw off competition from finalists Mae Architects, WilkinsonEyre with Mole Architects and Karakusevic Carson Architects (KCA) with David Chipperfield.

Goldsmith Street includes 105 two and three-storey brick and mortar houses and flats built to Passivhaus standard and organised in terraced streets.

Chair of the jury and past RIBA president Ben Derbyshire said the scheme was a ‘fitting tribute’ to Neave Brown’s memory.

He added: ‘Goldsmith Street is an exemplar for social housing. Over its 10 years in the making, the architects, working with the City Council, have shown impressive sensitivity and prowess at every stage of the process.

‘The result is not just a highly desirable new neighbourhood for Norwich, but homes of the highest quality and most exacting environmental standards. That the outcome appears so naturally at ease in its context requires skill and determination belied by the scheme’s apparent simplicity.’

‘The UK urgently needs more ambition and creativity to drive the housing revolution that is needed, and Goldsmith Street shows us how it can be done.’

The award sets out to celebrate schemes that demonstrate evidence of meeting the ‘challenge of housing affordability’ yet its criteria faced criticism for only requiring a third of the homes to be ‘affordable’. 

Of all the finalists, only Goldsmith Street scheme contained 100 per cent social housing. The other schemes included the regeneration of Hackney’s Colville Estate by Karakusevic Carson Architects (KCA) with David Chipperfield.

The scheme is set to deliver 925 new homes – with 50 per cent affordable across the phased development.  

Also on the list was Mae Architects’ Brentford Lock West Keelson Gardens in Hounslow, which contains 115 homes, 50 per cent of which are shared ownership and the rest for private sale.

Meanwhile, WilkinsonEyre with Mole Architects’ Eddington Lot 1 in north-west Cambridge provides accommodation for university staff at discounted rents.

Architects including Kate Macintosh, Jane Duncan and Bell Phillips’ Hari Phillips, said the award should celebrate social housing, not ‘intermediate’ affordable housing such as shared ownership or discounted rents.

Neave Brown, who died last year, designed some of Britain’s most imaginative post-war public housing including Alexandra Road and Dunboyne Road Estate, both in Camden.

In 2018, the Modernist architect was awarded the UK’s highest honour for architecture, the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture.

To be eligible for the Neave Brown Award for Housing, a scheme had to be a 2019 RIBA Regional Award-winning housing project with 10 or more homes and have completed after October 2016.

As well as Derbyshire, the shortlist was judged by Levitt Bernstein director Jo McCafferty and Adrian Gale, formally of the School of Architecture at the University of Plymouth.

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