Accordia takes Stirling Prize
13 October 2008
Accordia in Cambridge is the first housing development ever to win the RIBA Stirling Prize for architecture.
The project beat odds-on favourites such as the Westminster Academy school in London and the £113-million Civil Justice Centre in Manchester.
The judges described Accordia as 'beautifully thought-through' and 'high density housing at its very best, demonstrating that volume house-builders can deliver high quality architecture - and as a result improve their own bottom line. '
In 2006 the scheme was awarded a prestigious Building for Life gold standard. Building for Life is the national standard for well designed homes and neighbourhoods, run by CABE and the Home Builders Federation.
Built on a brownfield site formerly owned by the army, Accordia's 378 homes range from from five-bed houses to one-bed apartments. Thirty percent of the scheme are affordable units.
The scheme was masterplanned by Feilden Clegg Bradley who, in an unusual move, brought in two other architectural practices, Maccreanor Lavington and Alison Brooks Architects, to introduce a less monocultural feel to the large site.
While the Feilden Clegg Bradley houses are characterised by a distinctive row of tall brick chimneys, the Maccreanor Lavington units represent a thoughtful reflection on traditional English house types and the Alison Brooks Architects' houses feature intriguing and unusually generous interior layouts.
The risk from this approach is creating an architectural zoo, and the three practices avoided this by using the common set of materials of Cambridge stock brick, copper and timber.
At 47 homes per hectare, Accordia is more densely developed than the national average of 25 homes per hectare but feels spacious. Although there are few private gardens, the site has extensive semi-public community gardens characterised by high-quality landscaping, and houses have been provided with interior rooftop spaces and internal courtyards. Accordia was praised by the judges for offering children a safe place to play outside.
CABE assisted in the early planning stages, as the project went through CABE's design review process.
Architect Keith Bradley feels that Accordia being awarded the Stirling Prize is a vitally important gesture to the housing industry. He will talk about how to deliver good housing design in an economic downturn at this year's Building for Life awards in November at the Royal Festival Hall.
Another project that CABE helped in the early stages, Old Market Square in Nottingham, also won a RIBA award.