The First Art Newspaper on the Net    Established in 1996 Thursday, August 11, 2022


Norwich council estate named UK's best new building
Goldsmith Street. © Tim Crocker.



LONDON.- The Royal Institute of British Architects has named Goldsmith Street in Norwich, designed by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley, as the winner of the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize. The annual prize, presented since 1996, is awarded to the UK’s best new building.

Goldsmith Street is comprised of almost 100 ultra low-energy homes for Norwich City Council.

In contrast to the higher-rise flats dominating the surrounding area, Goldsmith Street is arranged in seven terrace blocks, modelled on the Victorian streets of the nearby ‘Golden Triangle’ district.

Rows of two-storey houses are bookended by three-storey flats, each with their own front door, generous lobby space for prams and bikes, and a private balcony. The back gardens of the central terraces share a secure ‘ginnel’ (alleyway) for children to play together, and a wide landscaped walkway for communal gatherings runs perpendicularly through the middle of the estate. Parking has been pushed to the outer edges of the development, ensuring that people own the streets, not their cars.

Goldsmith Street meets rigorous ‘Passivhaus’ environmental standards – remarkable for a dense, mass housing development. It is a passive solar scheme, designed to minimise fuel bills for residents (annual energy costs are estimated to be 70% cheaper than for the average household). 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. Even the smallest details have been meticulously considered: letterboxes are built into external porches, rather than the front doors, to reduce any possibility of draughts; and perforated aluminium ‘brise-soleils’ provide sun shades above the windows and doors.

The palette of building materials references Norwich’s history, such as the glossy black roof pantiles – a nod to the city’s Dutch trading links – and the creamy clay bricks, similar to Victorian terraces nearby. To ensure the windows echoed Victorian proportions but also met ‘Passivhaus’ requirements, the architects developed a recessed feature, giving the impression of a much larger opening but limiting the amount of glass. Bespoke steel mesh garden gates and brightly coloured front doors give each home a strong sense of individuality and ownership.

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.

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, fostering strong community engagement and social cohesion.

Goldsmith Street is a ground-breaking project and an outstanding contribution to British architecture.”










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