“A Modest Masterpiece”: Goldsmith Street, the 2019 Stirling Prize Winner

Goldsmith Street is one of the UK’s first new council housing projects in a generation, and now it has been awarded the RIBA 2019 Stirling Prize for the country’s best new building. We look at why the project, designed by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley, is worthy of the prestigious award

Designed by architecture practice Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley, Goldsmith Street is a striking council housing project in Norwich consisting of 105 homes, split between two-storey houses and flats with their own front doors and private balconies.

Built to Passivhaus standards, the project features solar panels that, along with a host of carefully thought-out details, are set to make annual energy costs 70% lower than for the average household.

The Passivhaus mindset is reflected across the project, with letterboxes built into external porches to eliminate draughts and sun shading above windows and doors provided by perforated aluminium ‘brise-soleils’.

The overall scheme has been designed to create a safe and family friendly environment, with parking at the site’s outer edges and a secure ‘ginnel’, or alleyway between building providing playing space for children.

At the heart of the estate is a landscaped walkway to provide a social space for the development, while the overall street structure draws inspiration from Norwich’s Golden Triangle, known for its Victorian terraced houses.

“Goldsmith Street is a modest masterpiece,” said Julia Barfield, chair of the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize judging panel. “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.”

The project is the first social housing development in the history of the Stirling Prize to net the prestigious award, a move that architecture experts have characterised as a strong vote of confidence in high-quality, sustainable council housing.

“This is proper social housing, over ten years in the making, delivered by an ambitious and thoughtful council,” said Barfield. “These desirable, spacious, low-energy properties should be the norm for all council housing.”