McGrath Road by Peter Barber

Peter Barber Architects' "intelligent, dynamic and original" McGrath Road named UK's best affordable housing scheme

The McGrath Road housing project by Peter Barber Architects in east London has won this year's RIBA Neave Brown Award for Housing 2021.

The brick scheme was given the award, which is presented to the best new affordable housing scheme in the UK by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), at a ceremony last week.

McGrath Road by Peter Barber Architects
McGrath Road has won this year's Neave Brown Award for Housing

"Intelligent, dynamic and original – this unique configuration of housing has the McGrath Road community at its heart," said Simon Allford, president of RIBA.

"It's an exemplar of high-quality social housing within one of London's most densely populated boroughs and demonstrates what can – and must – be achieved across the country."

Brick housing in London
The housing has distinctive recessed arches

The social housing estate, built for the London Borough of Newham, is made up of 26 townhouses fronted with distinctive recessed arches and arranged around a central courtyard.

Every home is three or four storeys tall and has a balcony, a private terrace and a living room on the top floor with views across London, while all are for social rent, affordable rent or shared ownership.

Brick housing block by Peter Barber Architects
It is Peter Barber Architects latest London housing scheme

Peter Barber Architects has built up a reputation for high-quality, unusual social housing projects across London, with its founder Peter Barber awarded an OBE in the 2021 Queen's Birthday Honours.

The practice previously told Dezeen that the McGrath Road estate is a reinterpretation of Victorian back-to-back housing.

Living room in London flat
The block contains social rent, affordable rent or shared ownership flats

The award is named after the late Neave Brown, an architect known for pioneering modernist social housing estates such as Alexandra Road in Camden, north London.

Brown famously rejected the trend for high-rise residential buildings in the 1960s and '70s in favour of street-based estates with an emphasis on community spaces.

Allford said McGrath Road would have been "championed by the late, great Neave Brown".

David Mikhail, chair of the Neave Brown Award for Housing jury, said the McGrath Road scheme "demonstrates how imaginative street-based architecture can be socially progressive and architecturally engaging – a combination that endears Peter Barber Architects' work to so many people".

Mikhail is the co-founder of London-based architectural studio Mikhail Riches won the first Neave Brown Award for Housing in 2019 for its highly-decorated Goldsmith Street in Norwich, which also took that year's RIBA Stirling Prize.

Pooja Agrawal, co-founder and CEO of social enterprise Public Practice, and Neave Brown family representative Mark Swenarton joined Mikhail on the award jury.

Housing arranged around a central courtyard
The housing is arranged around a central courtyard

To be considered for the Neave Brown Award for Housing projects must be made up of 10 or more homes and have been completed must have won a RIBA Regional Award. At least one third of the housing must be at affordable tenures.

Peter Barber Architects' McGrath Road was joined on this year's Neave Brown Award for Housing shortlist by the studio's 95 Peckham Road project, Stanton Williams' Key Workers housing in Cambridge and Blackfriars Circus by Maccreanor Lavington.

Photography is by Morley Von Sternberg.