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Kingston University's 'Town House' wins 2021 Riba Stirling Prize

Civic-minded ‘theatre of life’ that welcomes students and locals alike is lauded as a ‘progressive new model for higher education’ as Kingston University’s new social and study space ‘Town House’ wins 2021 Riba Stirling Prize for architecture

  • The Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) Stirling Prize is the UK’s most prestigious architecture award
  • Kingston University’s ‘Town House’ in London won the 2021 Riba Stirling Prize for architecture today 
  • The chairman of the prize’s jury praised Town House as ‘a theatre for life, a warehouse of ideas’

A building described as a ‘progressive new model for higher education’ won a top UK architecture award today.

The Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) named Kingston University London’s Town House the winner of the 2021 Riba Stirling Prize, one of the UK’s most prestigious architecture awards. 

The award is for the architect of a building thought to be the most significant of the year for the evolution of architecture and the environment created.

Many Kingston students are the first in their families to attend university and the building aims to send a message that it is a place where everyone is welcome and valued. 

Grafton Architects designed the Town House to be a democratic and open space with a civic dimension that also reflects a sense of home and belonging. 

Kingston University Town House (pictured) won this year’s Riba Stirling Prize today. The building was described as a ‘progressive new model for higher education’

The Riba Stirling Prize is one of the UK’s most prestigious architecture awards. Kingston’s Town House beat other buildings to the prize for the most significant structure of the year for the evolution of architecture

The building is wrapped in long, square columns and and blurs its boundary with the outside pavement to invite everyone in, whether they are students or locals.

The Town House is open-plan and spacious inside with a public forum at the entrance that leads to an amphitheatre.

It also has a library, archive, dance studio and theatre, meaning spaces for socialising and studying exist side by side. 

The chairman of the 2021 Riba Stirling Prize jury, Lord Foster, said: ‘Kingston University Town House is a theatre for life, a warehouse of ideas.

‘It seamlessly brings together student and town communities, creating a progressive new model for higher education, well deserving of international acclaim and attention.

‘In this highly original work of architecture quiet reading, loud performance, research and learning can delightfully co-exist.

‘That is no mean feat. This must be the future of education.’

Kingston’s Town House beat the Windermere Jetty Museum in Cumbria and Cornwall’s Tintagel Castle Footbridge to be the 25th winner of the annual award.

Other buildings shortlisted included 15 Clerkenwell Close in London, Cambridge’s Central Mosque and Key Worker Housing in Eddington.  

Grafton Architects said: ‘We imagined a place where students would feel at home.

‘This building is about people, interaction, light, possibilities.


Grafton Architects, which designed Town House, said: ‘We imagined a place where students would feel at home. ‘This building is about people, interaction, light, possibilities. The Dublin-based firm added: ‘It is about connecting to the community, the passer-by, an invitation to cross the threshold, a three-dimensional framework with layers of silence and layers of sound. Space, volume and light are the organisers’

Professor Steven Spier, Kingston University’s vice chancellor, said it had been an ‘incredibly ambitious brief’ to create a space that allowed students to meet each other, inspire learning and have room for dance studios (pictured) as well

Grafton Architects said: ‘Kingston University gave us this educational vision which we translated into a spatial open matrix’

Professor Steven Spier, Kingston University’s vice chancellor, said: ‘Our students have embraced Town House, relishing the opportunity to find their place within it and make its many spaces their own’

‘It is about connecting to the community, the passer-by, an invitation to cross the threshold, a three-dimensional framework with layers of silence and layers of sound. 

‘Space, volume and light are the organisers.

‘The building edges are not boundaries but active gathering spaces, terraces, galleries.

‘Being outside under the sky is always just a few steps away.’

The Dublin-based firm added: ‘Kingston University gave us this educational vision which we translated into a spatial open matrix.

The Town House at Kingston University in London beat the favourite to win, Marks Barfield Architects’ Cambridge Central Mosque

The Kingston University Town House also trumped 15 Clerkenwell Close, which is also in London and was designed by GROUPWORK

15 Clerkenwell Close has a rough exterior that makes it seem unfinished and rugged but judges still shortlisted it for the top prize

Key Worker Housing, in Eddington, Cambridge, was designed by Stanton Williams and although it was shortlisted the building could not beat the Town House to the top gong

Ney and Partners and William Matthews Associates’ footbridge at Tintagel Castle in north Cornwall offered a tough opposition with its stunning architecture

The bridge will no doubt be adored by architecture fans and Cornwall homeowners alike but it couldn’t be number one in the UK this year

Windermere Jetty Museum was another rustic building at one with nature on the cusp of the Lake District in Cumbria

The Windermere Jetty Museum offers stunning views of the lakes and valleys of Cumbria and has a stylish and crisp type of architecture

However, the Windermere Jetty was unable to pip Kingston University’s London Town House to the Riba Stirling award this year

‘We are absolutely delighted the Kingston Town House has won the prestigious Stirling Prize.’

Professor Steven Spier, Kingston University’s vice chancellor, said it had been an ‘incredibly ambitious brief’ to create a space that allowed students to meet each other, inspire learning and have room for dance studios as well.

He said: ‘The Stirling Prize confirms Town House as a world-class building and a fitting foil to the aspirations of our students.

‘It is invigorating to witness the creativity, collaboration and shared learning this open, inviting space fosters.

‘Our students have embraced Town House, relishing the opportunity to find their place within it and make its many spaces their own.’

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