Sometimes it’s a modest architectural design that really steals the show. That’s certain true for this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize winner: Goldsmith Street. Described as “A Modest Masterpiece”. The Norwich council estate has just been named the UK’s best new building by the Royal Institute of British Architecture.


TL;DR

The architectural design was inspired by surrounding victorian architecture...
The estate is arranged in 2 story terraces with 3 story flats at either end. The nearly 100 homes all meet the stringent ‘Passivhaus’ environmental standards thanks to a wealth of tiny details. Over a quarter of the plot is communal space designed to promote a strong sense of community.

Designed by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley, it’s certainly a far cry from the tired, aging 1950s council estate of my childhood! And from the more radical designs of Marine Doc Estate or Walden-7.

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. – Julia Barfield – designer of the London Eye.

Timeless Design

The design was inspired by the victorian streets round the corner and uses bricks of a similar color. Whilst the black roof tiles nod towards the city’s Dutch trading links. It’s arranged in 7, quintessentially English-styled terraces. A pleasant change from the surrounding tower blocks.

Architectural design
Little touches like differently colored doorways give a sense of individuality. ©Tim-Crocker

The buildings were designed as family homes. The entrance has a large space for prams, bicycles, coats and shoes. Each garden gate is bespoke and the doors are painted in different colors to give a sense of individuality.

These buildings are truly built to a timeless design that will serve for future generations to come.

Communal areas

Goldsmith Street is comprised of almost 100 homes. 2 story houses are arranged in rows with 3 story flats at each end and all houses have back gardens that meet on a secure alleyway, which residents insist, allows their children to play and socialize safely without the need to cross the road.

architectural design
At the back of the houses is a large, secure alleyway. A safe space for children to play. ©Tim-Crocker

There is also a wide landscaped walk-way. In fact, over a quarter of the plot is communal space designed to promote a strong sense of community.

A house with an instruction manual

When residents move in they are given a large, blue, ring manuals filled with the dos and don’ts on how to live in the homes. This means that annual energy costs are estimated at around 70% less than average.

All the homes built on the estate meet the stringent ‘Passivhaus’ environmental standards.

They are arranged to make best use of natural light with roofs angled at just 15°. This allows sunlight to hit houses on the other side of the road, even in the winter.

The walls are over 600 mm thick and the windows use minimal glass, to reduce energy loss, with a special recessed design that makes them appear larger, to better match the existing local architecture.

There also many other small details like letterboxes built into walls, not doors, to minimize draughts and perforated aluminum sunshades over windows and doors.

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©Matthew-Pattenden
©Matthew-Pattenden
Little touches like differently colored doorways give a sense of individuality. ©Tim-Crocker
Little touches like differently colored doorways give a sense of individuality. ©Tim-Crocker
©Tim-Crocker
©Tim-Crocker
©Tim-Crocker
©Tim-Crocker
©Tim-Crocker
©Tim-Crocker
©Matthew-Pattenden
©Matthew-Pattenden

Other houses that were shortlisted for the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize were:

The RIBA Stirling Prize is sponsored by Almacantar, Champagne Taittinger and Arper.


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