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Stirling reaction: ‘Goldsmith Street win confirms UK’s council housing renaissance’

Stirling prize annalie riches 2019 (1)
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The profession reacts to news that the Goldsmith Street development in Norwich by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley has become the first-ever council housing scheme to win the RIBA Stirling Prize

Claire Bennie, director, We Are Municipal

Norwich City Council’s imaginative commissioning of a small, design-led firm of architects is a rare move in the delivery of council housing. The quality that has been achieved is remarkable on a budget and should be an inspiration to other developing councils.

Leo Pollak, cabinet member for social regeneration, great estates, new council homes, Southwark Council

Mikhail Riches and Norwich City Council’s Stirling Prize win confirms the renaissance of council housing for Britain, setting the standard for properly crafted human-scale housing. It also returns us to a space where the prestige of council housing is properly recognised as the form of residential development that takes the architectural profession back to its highest ideals.

Hilary Satchwell, director, Tibbalds Planning and Urban Design

I’m delighted that Goldsmith Street has won the Stirling Prize. When I was studying architecture some 25 or so years ago there was some debate about whether housing was even a worthy Part 2 project. This shows just how far we have come in recognising what well-designed housing can do for people and place. A brilliant achievement for all involved.

Goldsmith Street sets a new exemplar for housing outside of our urban centres that fully considers the needs of its inhabitants and neighbours.

Dave Lomax, senior associate and architect, Waugh Thistleton Architects

This result is a stunning vindication of the return of house-building to the public sector – nothing is too good for the working class. This project also proves that truly sustainable design must be inherent in the fabric, not only of our buildings, but also of our communities. Heartfelt congratulations to the team, the client and the residents themselves whose glowing recommendations of their new homes must surely have clinched it for the judges.

Alan Dunlop, Alan Dunlop Architects

Many congratulations to Mikhail Riches and Cathy Hawley for the bookies’ favourite Goldsmith Street – although a puzzling choice frankly for the UK’s best building.  Those shortlisted tonight were all fine buildings and two – London Bridge Station by Grimshaw and Nevill Holt Opera by Witherford Watson Mann Architects – looked very good indeed and either would have been worthy winners. 

I’m afraid the Stirling Prize remains a glad-handing London centric jolly. 

The others appeared well crafted and considered, with two having a thorough grasp of sustainable design, commendable community engagement and excellent bio-waste credentials. Though the inaugural Neave Brown Award seemed a more fitting tribute for Goldsmith Street than the prize for UK’s best building. I’m afraid the Stirling Prize remains a glad-handing London centric jolly. An award given to mates to protect a collective practice and academic base. How else can you explain that, in 22 years, only three architects from outside the city have won, with little more even shortlisted?

Goldsmiths jimstephenson 2 webres

Goldsmiths jimstephenson 2 webres

Dinah Bornat, director, ZCD Architects

Goldsmith is the embodiment of what we’re advocating for on a daily basis: design, play and social value hand in hand. I’m so pleased to see it recognised. It is an absolute treasure, full of care and joy that works for children, and works for people.

Kunle Barker, managing director, Illustrious Homes, and TV presenter

This is a great win for architecture. It took Mikhail Riches 12 years to bring this project to life after winning an RIBA competition. Like the pioneer of well-designed and beautiful social housing Le Corbusier, Mikhail Riches thought first of the people that would inhabit these spaces, the people that would make them their homes. It’s beautifully designed, sustainable, expertly executed and magnificently considered. It ticks every single box and in the years to come will be held as an exemplar of the watershed moment when the UK once again delivered the best social housing in the world. This is a template of how all social housing should be designed. I hope it marks a return to the country’s best architects, producing our most needed homes.

Pooja Agrawal, co-founder Public Practice

For me this win symbolises the changing tide where local authorities are leading the way in delivering the highest quality of housing, and housing that is truly affordable. These homes have been modestly yet cleverly designed by Cathy Hawley and Mikhail Riches to be sustainable and also sociable, prioritising the resident’s experience.

I hope this reminds architects of the powerful role the profession can play by working for the public good

I hope this reminds architects of the powerful role the profession can play by working for the public good, and local authorities to recognise the value of working with the best architectural talent the country has to offer.

Cany Ash, partner, Ash Sakula Architects

Thank goodness Goldsmith Street has won! This should show even unenlightened clients and communities that finding architects through design competitions and using traditional building contracts delivers better value not just to the planet but to them, too … while also making a place which feels so particular and clever.

John Boxall, partner, Jackson Coles

A thoughtful and well-considered scheme and a worthy winner. Good to see social housing elements incorporated so well and density achieved without design quality being compromised.

Roddy Langmuir of Cullinan Studio

Everyone who works in housing should get a real lift from the Stirling Prize result. At last, the best social and environmental responses of the architect are considered an essential part Of the best architecture.

Nicholas Boys-Smith, founding director, Create Streets

The judges have made the right decision. The residents said, ‘We want streets back in Norwich’ and that’s precisely what they’ve got – the type of traditional low-rise / high-density streets with clear fronts and clear backs in which it is easy to walk about, to play and to know your neighbours. It’s beautiful and it’s built to exemplary energy standards. And on a budget.

Goldsmith Street is the future not drive-to cul-de-sacs or over-designed blocks in space. Well done Mikhail Riches. And well done Norwich City.

Luke Tozer, Pitman Tozer Architects 

At last the RIBA judges have recognised the critical importance of careful sustainable housing design. We should be shouting from the rooftops that great architecture can be good for society and for the environment. Architects Mikhail Riches and Cathy Hawley and Norwich City Council and the whole design team deserve the accolades for creating beautiful, useful homes that should stand the test of time. How refreshing that it was all done under a traditional contract, without design & build – local councils developing homes for the local good. Let’s hope this marks a watershed and the model isn’t extraordinary in years to come. Bravo.

Let’s hope this marks a watershed

Peter Murray, chair, New London Architecture

A great result for all those who, as I do, want to see more housing delivered by the public sector. An unusually sensible choice by the RIBA jury. But as a Londoner, I was sorry London Bridge didn’t make it – a brilliant piece of civic infrastructure.

Russell Curtis, director, RCKa

For some reason, design competitions are viewed with cynicism by the public sector, and traditional procurement considered too risky. Tonight’s Stirling Prize result knocks this outdated attitude into the long grass. Here is a clear demonstration that an intelligent, engaged client, with a well-run selection process and a progressive attitude, which prioritises longevity and quality over short-term box-ticking and risk aversion, really can deliver buildings that are cost-effective, sustainable, beautifully designed and loved by residents. This is a brilliant and well-deserved result. Let’s hope that the lessons learned at Goldsmith Street can be repeated elsewhere – the time has surely come.

Duncan Blackmore, director, Arrant Land

I’m extremely pleased that Goldsmith Street has received this recognition. It’s incredibly important that modest and sustainable housing, delivered with intelligence, sensitivity and an economy of means, is held up as an example to the industry. But it’s even more important that other clients, and the public, will see what is possible and that their expectations will be raised. This scheme should be part of establishing a new and better normal, and everybody involved in the delivery of housing needs to be ready to step up and deliver.

Joseph Henry, senior project officer, Greater London Authority

The plaudits for this project are well earned and deserved. It is no mean feat to deliver a project of this quality with all its environment credentials and it should be applauded that this has been achieved through the public sector. However, the built environment sector now needs to make sure this project becomes the baseline for quality rather than a unique precedent. It needs to become an exemplar of good practice and ideally will be replicated (a new, good bog-standard) so that all citizens are able to benefit from high-quality homes.

Goldsmith street 5605©tim crocker

Goldsmith street 5605©tim crocker

Cristina Garcia, principal, Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates 

Congratulations to Mikhail Riches and Cathy Hawley. Goldsmith Street is a wonderful project, cleverly designed with really well-resolved spaces, efficient plans and bold architectural expression.

The shortlist showed a ‘back to basics’ approach to materiality, simplicity and craftsmanship

It’s a complete contrast to last year’s winner and speaks to a shift in the prize’s concerns and a recognition of the importance of exceptional, affordable housing. The Stirling Prize is a great opportunity to showcase a range of attitudes and concerns from across our profession to the wider public. In addition to the theme of sustainability, this year’s shortlist showed a ‘back to basics’ approach to materiality, simplicity and craftsmanship.

Georgia Gould, leader, Camden Council

This is an exciting moment for council house-building. Despite a chronic lack of government investment, councils around the country are stepping up to build. We are seeing councils produce bold, beautiful, sustainable schemes, designed in partnership with residents. In Camden, we are proud to be part of a new generation of council housebuilders and we want to congratulate Norwich on this historic award.

Tom Holbrook, director, 5th Studio

The Stirling Prize victory of Cathy Hawley’s and Mikhail Riches’ excellent Goldsmiths Street social housing in Norwich for the city council couldn’t be a better illustration of how publicly commissioned housing can innovate in terms of invention, quality and environmental sustainability. It is so important that councils are enabled to borrow money to build affordable housing for their communities, and to commission the best designers to help them. It is also critical that this social investment is not then eroded by pernicious ‘right to buy’ policies, but is sustained for the common good. Congratulations to Cathy and the Mikhail Riches team, and also to the courage of Norwich City Council.

This is an exciting moment for council house-building

Jonathan Hines, managing director, Architype

For too long the Prize has not taken environmental and real social sustainability seriously enough, and so I am delighted to see Goldsmith Street win tonight. It is a great piece of well designed architecture, in which sustainability is fundamentally and thoughtfully embedded. It demonstrates something that we passionately believe - that Passivhaus does not restrict design quality in the hands of a good architect, it is simply a tool to ensure the building performs exactly as it should, delivering user comfort and radically reduced energy consumption.

Passivhaus does not restrict design quality in the hands of a good architect

To meet the challenge of climate targets, every single new house needs to be designed and built in this way - and I hope that this scheme winning the Stirling Prize will encourage that to happen throughout the UK.

Neil Murphy, director, TOWN

After last year’s extravagance it’s great to see a socially and environmentally relevant winner. Goldsmith Street is fine architecture and it’s more importantly a reminder that socially purposeful housing needs a sound economic model; recognition of the virtue of proper, far-sighted public funding of genuine affordable housing.

Vinesh Pomal, project architect, TateHindle 

Absolutely fantastic news that Goldsmith Street has won the RIBA Stirling Prize AND the inaugural Neave Brown Award. Congratulations to the architects (and the wider design team) on producing a great design and to the client for championing sustainability, believing in a small practice and delivering it through a traditional contract. 

A powerful message to public and private sector clients (and architects) that council housing designed to Passivhaus standards can be delivered to a high-quality design. Let this high accolade be a catalyst for more likeminded housing across the country. 

Let this also be the catalyst for more smaller practices to be recognised for their innovative work. 

Richard Lavington, partner, MaccreanorLavington

Fantastic news. This recognises the beautiful homes created by Annalie and David and their team, and is also a timely recognition of the important role of councils as in delivering social housing and the urgency of all in the industry to address the climate emergency as emphasised in David and Annalie’s speeches. This is a well-deserved win and a great message.

Goldsmiths jimstephenson 14

Goldsmiths jimstephenson 14

Rory O’Hagan, director at Assael Architecture

Goldsmith Street is a welcome breath of fresh air in the long line of Stirling Prize winners. The scheme is an architectural triumph, with community and sustainability at its heart. It truly shows what is possible when architects and local authorities take a forward thinking, resilient view on affordable housing, prioritising the long-term quality and operation of the homes over the short term value uplift.

Its PassivHaus certification is testimony to this, showing that low-energy, sustainable housing can be financially viable and accessible to all. Against a backdrop of growing climate concern, Goldsmith Street shows what architecture as an industry can do to better support people and planet.

Steven Charlton, managing director of the London studio of Perkins and Will

This is both a worthy and timely winner. As a project, it is the result of an ambitious local authority and architecture practice striving to deliver 100 high quality, sustainable and accessible homes for the community. What’s more, its PassivHaus certification is a clarion call to the entire built environment that sustainable, low energy design is financially viable if we, as an industry, take a long term operational view of the buildings we design and deliver. Goldsmith Street shows what’s possible - and I hope the industry is taking note.

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