Among 320 entries across 15 categories, drawn from 23 of London’s 33 boroughs, there were 33 prizes, which included 19 outright winners, 13 commendations and one special award. Seven hundred people attended the awards ceremony at 15th-century Guildhall in the City, a spectacular architectural achievement in its own right.
The special award went to Roger Madelin CBE, joint chief executive of development company Argent. Madelin was named new Londoner of the year for his part in the King’s Cross Central scheme, while the masterplan for the project, by Allies & Morrison and Porphyrios Associates, won the overall award.
One of the biggest regeneration projects in Europe, King’s Cross Central, carving out whole new parts of town from the industrial railway hinterland but with plenty of new public space, is leading the way in a new type of project celebrated elsewhere in the awards which recognise not only architecture, but also the impact developments have on their surroundings, their power to improve the quality of daily life, and their contribution to London as a whole.
Other public realm award winners included Battersea Power Station, which took the conservation and retrofit award. Olympic legacy awards included Zaha Hadid’s dazzling Aquatics Centre, which took the civic, culture and sport award, and the newly opened Tumbling Bay play area and Timber Lodge café, set in the north of Queen Elizabeth Park, where the timber café blends into the surroundings while children safely run amok in the adventure playground nearby. This won the public spaces award.
In the private homes and housing (blocks of flats) categories, there were some terrific designs. A strong move towards clean-lined, light-filled homes is very evident in private homes, as well as inventive use of brownfield sites. Larger-scale housing displayed a similar move towards homes with balconies and strong, crisp design, many of the winners mixing in plenty of affordable flats.
The two private homes winners are young and fun. Number 23, by MATT Architecture, used a vacant plot on the end of a Victorian terrace in Shepherd’s Bush. Defying its frilly neighbours, this block-like little home packs in lots more space by getting in a full-size basement. It is naturally lit, fully sustainable, and its bright, youthful interior suits the young family living there.
The second winner is in north London, and not yet built. The Junction, by Autor Architecture, is a clever, inward-looking design that solves serious problems of overlooking, while making use of a tight corner plot — currently only used by fly-tippers — to provide a two-storey home.
Other ingenious designs include Kew House by Piercy & Company, a steel-and-glass home inserted behind a 19th-century stable wall in a beautiful fusion of the two. This unusual, glamorous four-bedroom home is in a strict conservation area. Meanwhile, Mayfair House in Westminster has a bespoke leaf-design façade of more than 4,000 handmade, patinated-aluminium shingles, imitating a Virginia Creeper — but one that will never need pruning.
The housing section had some real stunners. The winners were Mint Street, on the edge of railway tracks in Bethnal Green, by Pitman Tozer. This reclining blue whale, gently curvaceous, creates 67 new affordable, shared-ownership and private sale homes, using winter gardens to buffer the noise, as well as making a new street called Mint Street to enhance the public realm.
The other winner is the Plimsoll Building in King’s Cross. It’s a big development of 250 flats set around a garden and above a community centre, nursery and primary school. The flats are brick-clad to reflect the Victorian architecture of the area.
Of note, though not among the winners, for their move to raise housing’s game, are the Vivo and So-Stepney apartments, part of the transformation of the Ocean Estate in Tower Hamlets. This was one of the most deprived estates in England, and the 704 new mixed-tenure homes, some with jaunty yellow balconies, exceed London Housing Design Guide and Building Regulations standards.
All the designs will be on show at New London Architecture, 26 Store Street, WC1, from mid-August. Visit newlondonarchitecture.org for details.