2021 RIBA Stirling Prize

15. October 2021
Photo © Ed Reeve

Yvonne Farrell and Shelley McNamara of Grafton Architects, recipients of the 2020 Pritzker Architecture Prize and 2020 RIBA Gold Medal, can add another honor to their CV: RIBA Stirling Prize. The firm's Town House for Kingston University London is the winner of the 25th RIBA Stirling Prize.

In the announcement of the 2021 Stirling Prize, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) describes Town House as "a progressive new model for the design of higher education buildings" and "a purposefully democratic and open space." The six-story, concrete-framed building wrapped in loggias houses what the jury calls "two dynamically opposed uses": a dance studio and a library. The jury, chaired by Norman Foster, commended the building's organization, spatial complexity, detailing, acoustics, and sustainability, summarizing it as "a rich, beautiful canvas against which to set young creative minds free" and "a building worthy of the international stage."

Take a tour through Town House below in a short film made on the occasion of the Stirling Prize shortlist followed by some photographs and, finally, a student-made short film that celebrates the architecture of Town House through performance.

Grafton Architects director Gerard Carty, Kingston University's Head of Student Services, Elizabeth Malone, and Seán Woulfe, Director of Estates and Sustainability at Kingston University, speak about Town House in a short film.
The name of the project intentionally references the external and internal qualities of the building: "Town" refers to its civic dimension, while "House" reflects a sense of home and belonging. (Photo © Ed Reeve)
"Wrapping the building in a tall colonnade gives it presence on the street," the jury stated, "successfully balancing the need to make a landmark statement with the wider need to respond respectfully in size and scale to its context." (Photo © Dennis Gilbert)
At the heart of the building is the amphitheater-style courtyard with bleacher seats. The space, which can be opened up to the foyer via sliding walls, is used for lectures, talks, and performances. (Photo © Ed Reeve)
An atrium with a network of stairs links the various floors and functions together. (Photo © Dennis Gilbert)
To the jury, "the collision and separation of opposing uses, like a dance itself, creates endless connections through voids, views, stairs and windows." (Photo © Dennis Gilbert)
The third floor of Town House is known as the library's "whisper floor," where students study quietly. Exemplary acoustics mean people in the library are not bothered by dancers or other activities in the building. (Photo © Alice Clancy)
Town House contains six dance studios. The unique mixture of library and dance studios is something Kingston University is proud of. (Photo © Ed Reeve)
"Phoenix Rising is a specially-created film featuring performing arts and fashion students from Kingston School of Art, highlighting the architecture of Town House." [source]

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