The Royal Institute of British Architects has named the Town House for Kingston University London, designed by Grafton Architects, as the winner of the 25th RIBA Stirling Prize. Located in south-west London, the six-storey building includes dance studios, a library, theatre and café. The architect has designed a purposefully democratic and open space, as the project name suggests.
Set back from the street, the scheme extends the public realm, generously blurring its boundary with the pavement and inviting people in. A generous colonnade provides shade and shelter, with terraces and gardens above creating ‘shelves’ of connected public space. The facades are open and transparent on lower storeys becoming more shaded above.
On entering the building, visitors are greeted by the public forum, which leads onto an amphitheatre. Eyes are drawn upwards– through voids and staircases – to social and study spaces. Exemplary acoustic design enables the forum, library, archive, dance studio and theatre to co-exist, thereby enriching the user experience.
Speaking on behalf of the 2021 RIBA Stirling Prize jury, Lord Norman 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. Education must be our future – and this must be the future of education.”
The project beat stiff competition from Marks Barfield Architects (Cambridge Central Mosque), GROUPWORK (15 Clerkenwell Close – London), Stanton Williams (Key Worker Housing – Eddington), Ney & Partners and William Matthews Associates (Tintagel Castle Footbridge), and Carmody Groarke (Windermere Jetty Museum).
The jury for the 2021 RIBA Stirling Prize comprised Lord Norman Foster (Chair), Simon Allford (RIBA President), architect Annalie Riches (2019 RIBA Stirling Prize winner) and artist Dame Phyllida Barlow. The jury was advised by architect Mina Hasman (Sustainability Expert).