Wed. Oct 27th, 2021

A building that has been described as a “progressive new model for higher education” has won a UK top architecture award.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) has named Kingston University London – Town House the winner of the 2021 Riba Stirling Prize.

The townhouse was designed by Grafton Architects to be a democratic and open space with a bourgeois dimension that also reflects a sense of home and belonging.

The townhouse
City Hall (Dennis Gilbert / PA)

Many of the Kingston students are the first in their families to go to university, and the building therefore aims to send a message that this is a place where everyone is welcome and appreciated.

The building is wrapped in a high sequence of columns, and it intends to blur its border with the outside sidewalk to invite everyone in – both students, locals and visitors.

Internally, it is open and spacious, with a public forum at the entrance leading to an amphitheater.

It also has social and study areas that exist throughout the building, including a library, archive, dance studio and theater.

Building interior
Building Interior (Ed Reeve / PA)

The chairman of the jury for the Riba Stirling Prize in 2021, Lord Foster, said: “Kingston University Town House is a theater for life – a storehouse of ideas.

“It seamlessly brings together students and urban communities and creates a progressive new model for higher education that deserves international recognition and attention.

“In this very original architectural work, quiet reading, high performance, research and learning can coexist nicely.

»It is not an evil enterprise. Education must be our future, and it must be the education of the future. ”

Townhouse
Lord Foster said Kingston University Town House is a theater for life (Ed Reeve / PA)

It beat the Windermere Jetty Museum in Cumbria and Cornwall’s Tintagel Castle Footbridge for being the 25th winner of the annual award.

The Cambridge Central Mosque, 15 Clerkenwell Close in London and Key Worker Housing in Eddington, Cambridge were also on the list.

Town House was the first building designed by Grafton Architects in the United Kingdom.

The Dublin-based company said: “We imagined a place where students would feel at home.

“This building is about people, interaction, light, opportunities.

“It is about connecting to the community, the passer-by, an invitation to cross the threshold; a three-dimensional frame with layers of silence and layers of sound. Space, volume and light are the organizers.

“The building edges are not boundaries, but active meeting rooms, terraces, galleries.

“Being outside under the big sky is always just steps away.”

Kingston University Town House
Kingston University Town House (Alice Clancy / PA)

They added: “Kingston University gave us this educational vision, which we translated into a spatially open matrix.

“We are delighted that Kingston Town House has won the prestigious Stirling Award.”

Kingston University Vice Chancellor Professor Steven Spier said it had been an “incredibly ambitious brief” to create a space that allowed students to meet each other, have a library to inspire learning and space for dance studies.

He added: “The Stirling Award confirms Town House as a world-class building and therefore a fitting foil to our students’ ambitions, many of whom are the first in their families to go to university.

“It is refreshing to witness the creativity, collaboration and shared learning that this open, inviting space promotes.

“Our students have embraced the Town House and look forward to the opportunity to find their place in it and make its many spaces their own.”

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