New homes scoop the top awards at Stirling Prize

Britain's innovative housing schemes win top awards at this year's Riba Stirling Prize for architecture.
Astley Castle
© John Miller
The very prestigious Stirling Prize went for the first time ever to a house, which is a restoration project as well - Astley Castle in Warwickshire. Now anyone can stay in this very special 12th century moated castle as it is a Landmark Trust property (landmarktrust.org.uk)

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Britain's latest housing projects showcase some of the country’s best new architecture, according to judges of the prestigious Stirling Prize.

Now in their 18th year, the architecture Oscars have gone mostly to housing schemes this time around, rather than to the bold, sharp or showy new signature buildings of the likes of international “starchitects” Zaha Hadid or David Chipperfield.

The overall winner this year was Astley Castle in Warwickshire, owned by the Landmark Trust, which has created a holiday home out of a 12th-century ruin. Astley Castle was also the BBC’s ‘People’s Choice’.

Extraordinarily, half the entire shortlist of six was housing, including a colourful revamp of Park Hill housing estate in Sheffield, only recently snatched from the wrecking ball by Studio Egret West with Hawkins/Brown; and Newhall Be in Essex (pictured), a smart suburban development of townhouses by Alison Brooks Architects, which, by reducing garden sizes, cleverly shoehorned eight extra homes on to the plot.

Among other awards, the National Trust won an award as Client of the Year for its work at Chedworth Roman Villa. Simon Jenkins, former editor of the Evening Standard and chair of the trust, said that "we have the largest collection of modern buildings — they just happen to have been modern some time ago."

Stirling Prize
Newhall Be, 84 new homes in Harlow, Essex, was one of the shortlisted housing schemes in this year's Stirling Prize
This idea, that all buildings were once modern, was reiterated by Anna Keay, director of the Landmark Trust, about Astley Castle.

In another category, the very clever Slip House by Carl Turner won the Manser Medal for the best one-off house design that might also be adapted for mass housing.

Michael Manser, who set up the award, set the evening alight with sharp remarks about housing design, saying that the aim of his award was to: “Show housebuilders how to do their work, which was done so much better in the 18th century.”

Whether they agree with him or not, this year’s awards certainly gives housebuilders plenty of food for thought.

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