Accordia wins Stirling Prize



Accordia, a housing development by architects Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Alison Brooks Architects and Macreanor Lavington, has won the RIBA Stirling Prize 2008 for the best building by a British architect.


Accordia, a development at Cambridge, England, beat five other shorlisted schemes by architects Grimshaw, Denton Corker Marshall, Zaha Hadid Architects, Allies & Morrison and Allford Hall Monaghan Morris to the £20,000 prize.


See all the shortlisted projects in our earlier story. All above images are copyright Tim Crocker.


Above image is copyright Peter Cook.

Here's some info about the Stirling Prize winner and the winners of other RIBA awards:


Accordia wins prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize 2008

Accordia in Cambridge designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Alison Brooks Architects and Macreanor Lavington has won the 13th RIBA Stirling Prize in association with The Architects' Journal. The presentation of the UK's premier architectural award took place at a glittering award ceremony this evening (Saturday 11 October) at the Arena and Convention Centre, Liverpool, and was televised live on Channel 4 at 9pm.


The judges commented:

“This is high density housing at its very best, demonstrating that volume house-builders can deliver high quality architecture – and that as a result they can improve their own bottom line.  The whole scheme is about relationships: between architect and developer/contractor/client; between three very different firms of architects – Feilden Clegg Bradley, Maccreanor Lavington and Alison Brooks Architects; and between private and public external spaces, providing a new model for outside-inside life with interior rooftop spaces, internal courtyards and large semi-public community gardens.”


On a brownfield site in Cambridge – formerly owned by the military - beautifully thought-through houses at a density of 47 homes to the hectare (65 if you discount the generous amenity spaces).  The site is organized straddling a broad avenue with just the one entrance for residents allowed to the site by the planners.  In this they bowed to the wishes of local residents for whom objection appears to be a full time occupation.


In other matters, the planners led by the remarkable Peter Studdert have been imaginative and firm with objectors. How often do planners use their powers to withhold permission unless the developers use good architects to produce fine architecture? What other authority would have allowed terraces at first and second floor level, instead of banning them on grounds of over-looking?  Where else would house-builders have been dissuaded from bowing to the supposed need of homeowners for a minimum 15 metre strip of garden behind the house?


Here several busy residents spoke to judges about their sense of liberation from the demands of gardening. Instead there is common land where children safely play as if in some idyllic throwback to the 1950s. Houses and flats have good-sized, well-proportioned rooms with views out ranging from urban to rural pasture.

There is plenty of variety in the house-plans too, from the understated simplicity of the FCBS layouts, to the highly complex plans of Maccreanor Lavington with their two staircases and their ambiguous inside-outside spaces; and the scissor plan stairs in some of the Alison Brooks houses.  The detailing too varies with the architect, producing a different aesthetic in each. These are traditional houses but with a twist.  Much of the construction was fabricated off site to increase speed of construction, reduce waste, and to improve site safety and environmental performance.

The judges were asked to consider Phase 1 of the scheme – filling the northern and western parts of the site – since then Countryside have sold on to Redeham Homes to complete the scheme and to date at least the new developers and their architects have remained faithful both to the Feilden Clegg Bradley masterplan and to their detailed design guidelines.  One row of mews houses by the new architects was indistinguishable, from the FCBS original on the other side of the exquisitely planted landscaping.

This is a Span-type housing for the 21st century, a post-Thatcherite development that is not afraid of communal aspirations and aesthetics.  There is plenty of individuality in the flexible house plans (mews garages have often been turned into studios or offices, even granny annexes); there is privacy on (most of) the terraces and balconies; but there are village greens and strips of common land, cars are tamed not banned – this is architecture that treats adults as grown-ups and children as people with different needs: for stimuli for play which does not involved sitting into front of a screen or a games console, and which involves interaction with other young people, not with Bill Gates and his protégés.

The development proves that good modern housing sells, that a committed local authority can have a very positive influence on the design, that a masterplan with a range of architects can be successful and that the very best architecture does not need to rely on gimmicks.  It has already won numerous awards: Housing Design Awards – overall winner (2006); Building for Life Awards: Gold Standard (2006); National Homebuilder Design Awards (2006); Civic Trust (2007).  It is a project that will be much referred to and used a future case study.  It is architecture which gives hope for us all for the future.”

Sunand Prasad, RIBA President, announced the winner and Kieran Long, Editor of The Architects' Journal presented with the prize and a cheque for £20,000.

Accordia beat off stiff competition from five other outstanding contenders: Amsterdam Bijlmer Arena Station, Amsterdam, Netherlands – Grimshaw and ARCADIS Architecten; Manchester Civil Justice Centre, Manchester - Denton Corker Marshall; Nord Park Cable Railway, Innsbruck, Austria – Zaha Hadid Architects; Royal Festival Hall, London - Allies and Morrison and Westminster Academy at the Naim Dangoor Centre, London - Allford Hall Monaghan Morris.

The RIBA Stirling Prize jury, comprising architecture specialists and lay judges visited all six shortlisted buildings and then met for a final time this afternoon to pick the winner.  The judges were Eva Jiricna architect, Eva Jiricna Architects; Gordon Murray – architect, Murray Dunlop Architects; Shelley McNamara – architect, Grafton Architects; Kieran Long – Editor, The Architects’ Journal and Diarmuid Gavin – garden designer, Diarmuid Gavin Designs.

This is the 13th year the RIBA Stirling Prize has been presented.  Last year's winner was the Museum of Modern Literature by David Chipperfield Architects..  The previous winners are: Barajas Airport in Madrid by Richard Rogers Partnership, The Scottish Parliament, designed by EMBT / RMJM, 30 St. Mary Axe by Foster and Partners; the Laban Centre, London by Herzog & de Meuron; Gateshead Millennium Bridge by Wilkinson Eyre; Magna, Rotherham by Wilkinson Eyre; Peckham Library and Media Centre by Alsop and Störmer; the NatWest Media Centre at Lord's Cricket Ground by Future Systems; the American Air Museum at Duxford by Foster and Partners; The Music School, Stuttgart by Michael Wilford and Partners; and the Centenary Building, University of Salford, by Hodder Associates.

The RIBA Special Awards honour the best buildings with special emphasis on: sustainable and inclusive design; conservation; exemplary school design, a one-off home and a project working within a smaller budget. The following winners of the RIBA Special Awards were also announced and presented at the ceremony this evening:

Oxley Woods, in Milton Keynes, won the Manser Medal sponsored by the Rooflight Company for the best one-off house or housing scheme designed by an architect in the UK.

The Sackler Crossing in Kew by David Sheppard Architects won the Stephen Lawrence Prize sponsored by the Marco Goldschmied Foundation, for the best example of a building with a construction budget of less than £1 million.

The Old Market Square, Nottingham by Gustafson Porter won the inaugural RIBA CABE Public Space Award which celebrates publicly accessible external space.

St Pancras International by Alastair Lansley (for Union Railways) won The Crown Estate Conservation Award.  The prize is awarded to the best work of conservation which demonstrates successful restoration or adaptation of an architecturally significant building.

The Manchester Civil Justice Centre, Manchester by Denton Corker Marshall won the RIBA Sustainability Award sponsored by English Partnerships. The prize is given to the building that demonstrates most elegantly and durably the principles of sustainable architecture.

Westminster Academy at the Naim Dangoor Centre by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris won the Sorrell Foundation Schools Award, was presented to the architects of the best RIBA award-winning school - primary or secondary - with the aim of raising the standards of design in all new school building.

Posted on Saturday October 11th 2008 at 9:42 pm by . Copyright policy | Comments policy

  • Omar

    Repetition… Classical beauty… i like it.

  • marc

    I’m speechless. You must be joking. This result epitomizes the state of British contemporary architecture.

  • tengyun

    very good!

  • daniel king

    loved is a nice space nice design
    couldn’t be better is modern but
    not a crazy place look great

    loved loved loved

  • Georg

    I must admit to be quite confused and puzzled….This project has been selected to represent contemporary British architecture?? I personally think it represents only half of our contemporary culture and society, and perhaps that middle class/conservative but ” hey, I want to look modern!” half society…. How come today I can, if I want, wear a white linen suit and even a discreet thong underneath and be “accepted” as contemporary despite being different?… and then our society believes it’s OK to choose such a polite, good, comfortable average architecture in 2008?? I wish something closer to our contemporary society, with its marvelous contradictions was chosen to represent our contemporary culture and identity…..

  • runningforasthma

    Marc, I have to agree. An amazingly bad choice for the ‘celebration’ of British architecture, DCM should have won it, which is pretty much indicative of the state of British architecture given that they’re an Australian practice.

  • roadkill

    I thinks AHMM’s scheme was much better than this housing project. Given its social deprived site and political context it did more to promote good design than a bunch of housing for toffs… it is bad news!

  • WM

    I was surprised too but the Brick choice was in respect to the area, interiors well designed and families loved living there

  • *MIRTEC*

    poor britain..

  • emile

    Aren’t Denton Corker Marshal an Australian firm? and yet it mentions them in the list for the prize for British Architects.

  • David

    Awarding the Stirling Prize to a housing scheme that is seemingly well built, offers a rare breadth of semi-public and private outdoor spaces, and different tenures, is a breath of fresh air. Perhaps this signals a wider acknowledgement of those social issues that architects can, but rarely do, respond creatively to: How different people with different aspirations, lifestyles and incomes can live together in comfort, both private and public, with thongs (Georg). A breath of fresh air, because it is a different set of concerns to those of the object building which might provide an image of difference but not necessarily offer different ways of living. It is a prize for architecture after all.

  • Andrew

    All very worthy, but bland, bland, bland.

    Under Kieran Long (one of the judges) as editor, The Architect’s Journal (sponsors of the prize) has been pushing this Carbohydrate Architecture* in a big way, so it’s no great surprise to see this win. Plus, it was the scheme to include gardens…

    *Like eating rice cakes or mashed potato with no protein (the interesting bit) or fibre (the other interesting bit).

  • Amos

    The best project won. At last quality architecture over celebrity hype.

  • J. G. Ballard

    I can imagine the middle class creatives, coming home every night in their Ikea, Habitat, furnished lounge.
    A glass of Gin tonic, reading Jamy Oliver’s cooking book, with their bored wife, planning on their next trip to the Maldives or a week end of compulsive shopping in the super Dome shopping Mall on the M25…
    There’s something of a mute violence in this project, a mixed between a psychiatric hospital, morphed with social housing. A laboratory for soulless consumerism, wrapped in posh liberal middle class brick work, satisfied boredom, spineless lives filled with tabloid political commitments to the community and dreams of plasma screens…

  • windbag

    the architecture here is quite ordinary, not too bad, maybe not worthy of such a reward.
    the real problem, at least for me, is the choice of the skin.
    these industrial bricks transmit a cold industrial feeling that spoils the cleaness of the forms.
    maybe it’s just me but straight lines and brickwork bring up associations with industrial buildings and warehouses, not really something I like to see associated with a housing experience.

  • martin

    Who says quality has to be exciting? Who says exciting has to be quality (hello Zaha)?

  • Biz

    @ J.G. Ballard: … Millennium people? :-)
    Great Ballard!
    But is a problem of urban design, not only architectural.

  • Tellsitlikeitis

    J.G. Ballard:
    Why do you hate your own class so much?

  • JamieNotJamy

    J.G. Ballard

    Well I live there, so I enjoyed your little list of stereotypes.

    I’m assuming you’re 16 and don’t know many people, otherwise your aged cliches are a bit embarrassing.

    For what it’s worth it really is a superb place to live – and this from someone who has never read a Jamie Oliver book or visited the Maldives. Though I do have a bored husband.

  • Pedro

    For those of you wondering, ‘Accordia’ is the plural of ‘Accordion’.

  • Phew



    Great to hear the opinions of someone who lives there.

  • Andrew

    to continue my previous comment:

    …I think I’ll call it Starch-itecture

  • Hotrats

    J.G.Ballard?? The real one or an imposter – I suspect an imposter??? If you are the real one you really don’t have your finger on the pulse anymore. I’m sure the occupants or Accordia wouldn’t be seen dead in a super dome shopping mall on the M25 – much more likely the local farmers market or deli buying imported truffles, bespoke cheeses and artisan breads – this is Cambridge after all don’t you know. And I’m sure they’re past buying the throw away Ikea tat that most bland shoe boxes are furnished with. If you can afford to live in Accordia you can probably afford to shop at Vitra and the like. Dreams of plasma screens?? – dreams of trips to the arts cinema more like. And the Maldives? – hill walking in Tuscany perhaps. But why not?? – it beats Shepperton. Join the middle class throng – they have some wonderful coffee mornings.

    This scheme is really what the British housing industry needs – quality design, shared public space and an urban plan that is a million miles away from the 1930 senis and mock-Georgian cul-de-sacs of outer London and Surrey.

    btw. The Voices of Time is still a great short story.

  • J.G. Ballard

    Yes “Hotrats” , as I said, coffee table (sophisticated tabloid) architecture for upper middle class.
    Perfect clients, my dear “JamieNotJamy”, manicured life in England’s dreaming, a little bit modern conservative (not too minimalist), not too nouveau riche (not so digital), just enough European culture (minimalism as ornament), and the typical English social class anal snobbery
    …Would be nice to forget the financial crisis in the garden, watching your future millionaire teenage delinquent kids grow up…

    Sorry “Tellsitlikeitis”, but it is not hating, just an ironic comment on an architecture driven by nostalgia. I find the living room quite depressing, imagining it dull in winter. The ceiling height is just enough for a loud party, with “She’s lost control” as a soundtrack. While the brickwork would be so cute with snow around, blending under a grey sky.

  • David

    Does anyone contributing to this debate, other than JamieNotJamy, have any idea who in fact lives in Arcadia? What their income spread is? What their ownership/tenancy arrangement is?

    The majority of the negative criticism seems aimed at a notional middle-class which almost certainly does not reflect the residents of Arcadia in as much as it is out-of-date and reductive. Cambridge, as well as being an old university town, is one of the fastest growing conurbations in the country.

    If we wanted to debate the merit of the architecture, surely we would be discussing the benefits of the plan, section, urban design and then possibly the affordability and mixed tenure arrangements before speculating about the possible proclivities of the (temporary) occupants?

  • JuiceMajor²

    A worthy winner. Am just mad that why can’t all housing be as beautifully designed as this one!

  • Kim

    I don’t see the point of your argument David.
    Why should we forget about the people and only specialize into debating on the plan, the urban design and all these themes ? Are we not suppose to design for people, for specific clients ?
    I understand J.G Ballard. Architecure disconnected from the socio-economical context, as it was always done by the Moderns is just any other consumption lifestyle product. My point is not to think with nostalgia on the Genuis Locci but a real debate on the aesthetical and political aspect of this residential project.
    Obviously it was directed towards a very conservative-liberal educated market. It smells so much as a safe choice. I can only see this project as a suspicious exercise in marketing, and not as a social solution.

  • David


    The point of my argument was twofold. Firstly, some of above criticism is based on the perceived market ambitions of the project. However, we have not been told who actually lives there. I understand there is a mix of expensive and affordable housing. Therefore the argument that it appeals to a narrow upper-middle class audience only is untrue.

    Secondly, housing of this material quality is likely to last at least four or five generations. Victorian terraces are still happily occupied by the wealthiest and the poorest across the country and are only considered “posh” when in a currently wealthy neighbourhood. Therefore, there are qualities inherent in the architecture which are not related to the present inhabitants. What are those qualities


  • The photographs show a well considered scheme that shows a particular interest in how the materials are arranged in a very pleasing way. The interior photograph looks sparse but with people loving living there it has to be seen as a positive effect on the built environment. That must be what Architects are striving towards – creating great, beautiful places to live, work and socialise.

  • knowing me

    Since you asked: Accordia is not just housing for the wealthy, it also includes a good percentage of affordable housing. You can’t tell from the photographs because these houses look just like the slightly larger, posh ones.
    The merits of the scheme come from the idea that well designed communal space can contribute to making communities. And there is definitely a community there, the prevalence of family housing means the children have brought neighbours together.
    Have a look at Maccreanor Lavington’s website, they actually show some of their houses as occupied.

  • Is that really the real JG Ballard? I demand to know…

  • Tsais

    Accordia… well, did nobody notice that its retarded to place the chimney out in open air, cause chimneys in winter radiate warmth through your house, saving quite a bit of heating cost. Unless you make the blunt mistake of placing it outside. At best, the chimney, if you have only one, goes in the very center of the house.

    And I guess the stair-stepped Balcony arrangement is designed to make sure burglars aren’t limited to breaking into the lower floor apartments anymore.

    I do dislike designs where someone’s ok idea of aesthetics overrules function.

  • justanothercitizen

    Horrid, unimaginative, excessively boxy, uninspired, uninspiring, copycat, cloned. The same old same old.

    These things should get fines and bans, not awards and kudos.

  • The North

    Sack o’ s***!