Norwich council estate wins RIBA Stirling Prize

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

Goldsmith Street is comprised of almost 100 ultra low-energy homes for Norwich City Council, modelled on the Victorian streets of the nearby ‘Golden Triangle’ district.

Goldsmith Street meets rigorous ‘Passivhaus’ environmental standards, with the Passivhaus Trust saying that it ‘provides a high level of occupant comfort while using very little energy for heating and cooling’. Homes run on a passive solar scheme, estimated to bring residents annual energy bills which are 70 per cent cheaper than those for the average household.

The estate has been designed by architect company Mikhail Riches to be eco-friendly down to the smallest of detail. To maximise solar gain, all homes face south and 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.

Julia Barfield, chair of the judging panel, 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.

“Over a quarter of the site is communal space – evidence of the generosity of the scheme. A secure alleyway connects neighbours at the bottom of their garden fences and a lushly-planted communal area runs through the estate, providing an inviting place for residents to gather and children to play, and fostering strong community engagement and social cohesion. Goldsmith Street is a ground-breaking project and an outstanding contribution to British architecture.”

Alan Jones, RIBA’s President, 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."

Gail Harris, Norwich City Council’s cabinet member for social housing, said: “This is an incredibly proud moment for Norwich, our strong history of building social housing and our ambitions to raise environmental standards. Winning this prestigious award shows that it is possible to build fantastic new council homes, despite the challenges posed by central government cuts and restrictions around Right to Buy receipts. We are so grateful to Mikhail Riches for sharing our vision for these homes, and helping us to create a sustainable community for our residents.”