McGrath Road by Peter Barber Architects has been named the winner of the 2021 Neave Brown Award for Housing, a prize given by RIBA to the best new high-quality and affordable housing in the UK.


The Neave Brown Award for Housing-winning McGrath Road by Peter Barber Architects was commended by the judges for its “refreshing” take on affordable housing.

The prize set up in 2018 to honour the late architect Neave Brown, who was awarded the Royal Gold Medal for Architecture for his contribution to British housing – namely the low-rise, high-density typology he produced from the 1960s onwards.

Reviewing McGrath Road for Architecture Today, architect and Bartlett vice-dean of research Murray Fraser found Peter Barber Architects’ scheme gave a unique twist to ordinary London housing. “Given such pressing issues for mass housing, it is concerning that only a few British architectural practices choose to devote their energies to this building type. Of these, it is Peter Barber who is the most outspoken and ambitious housing designer of all,” he wrote.

“The aesthetic [of McGrath Road] is a mixture of London’s Victorian brick railway arches and a scaled-down version of the multiple arches and notched roofline of Karl Marx-Hof in interwar ‘Red Vienna’. The twist at McGrath Road from both these precedents is the adoption of parabolic rather than rounded arches along the three higher sides of the courtyard (with rounded arches only on the lower fourth side that abuts onto adjacent housing).”


The judges for this years award were 2019 recipient David Mikhail of Mikhail Riches, Co-founder and CEO of Public Practice Pooja Agrawal and Neave Brown family representative Mark Swenarton, who is also the author of the book Cook’s Camden.

“McGrath Road reinterprets well-known housing typologies to generate a novel solution to affordable housing. Not only should the project be commended, but we also hope it will be used as a useful precedent that will be adopted in London and, indeed, throughout the United Kingdom,” reads the jury citation.

“The jury recognises the significant challenges of delivering affordable housing and so it was refreshing to see that the architects had abandoned the typology of a large residential block linked by shared common corridors. Instead, the development’s courtyard configuration allows each house to have its own sense of identity. The entrances are set under parabolic arches, creating arcaded frontages to the street and the courtyard that help to tie the development together, setting the scene for a vibrant and enjoyable resident community.”


Peter Barber Architects’s 95 Peckham Road was also shortlisted for the Neave Brown Award for Housing 2021, alongside Key Worker Housing by Stanton Williams and Blackfriars Circus by Maccreanor Lavington.

The winners of the 2021 Neave Brown Award for Housing, Stephen Lawrence Prize and Stirling Prize were announced in a ceremony at Coventry Cathedral on 14 October 2021.