A striking dance studio and library hub at Kingston University London has just been named the UK’s best new building by the Royal Institute of Architects (RIBA).
Called Town House, the exposed concrete-framed building has been designed by Grafton Architects to blur the distinction between private and shared spaces.
A 200-metre colonnade over the pavement provides shadow and shelter, with terraces and gardens above, while soaring panes of glass reveal views of creative activities taking place within to passing members of the public.
An open, public forum leads to an amphitheatre space, with social and study spaces arranged over the upper levels. Spaces include an archive room, dance studio, theatre and library – with acoustics carefully taken into account for the wide variety of uses and requirements.
Town Hall, which achieved BREEAM Excellent certification in design, was described during the judging process as a "rich, beautiful canvas against which to set young creative minds free," by the RIBA jury.
“In this highly original work of architecture, quiet reading, loud performance, research and learning, can delightfully co-exist. That is no mean feat. Education must be our future – and this must be the future of education.”
Kingston University London’s Vice Chancellor Professor Steven Spier said: “The Stirling Prize confirms Town House as a world-class building and, therefore, a fitting foil to the aspirations of our students, many of whom are the first in their families to go to university.
“It is invigorating to witness the creativity, collaboration and shared learning this open, inviting space fosters.”
Town House was chosen as the RIBA Stirling Prize 2021 winner from a shortlist of six which included a controversial limestone apartment block issued with multiple demolition orders by Islington council during its build.
The RIBA jury report said of the Islington building: "Risks have been taken and have paid off, resulting in a truly imaginative, intriguing and astonishing work of architecture."
Other projects to have been shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize included the new footbridge at Tintagel Castle on the North Cornwall coast; The Windermere Jetty Museum; a 1000-worshipper capacity mosque and a scheme of homes called Key Worker Housing, both in Cambridge.
Projects from every UK region were considered for the prestigious prize announced today. London’s contenders included the English National Ballet’s translucent new home in Canning Town and Tottenham Hotspur’s 60,000-seat stadium.
With the cancellation of the 2020 RIBA Awards circuit due to the coronavirus pandemic, most of the longlisted projects were actually completed in 2019.