Affordable housing scheme in Glasgow wins the RIBA Award for Scotland 2015
August 12th 2015
Housing developments are a prominent feature in this year’s RIBA awards for the UK’s best new buildings. RIBA (the Royal Institute of British Architects) makes its awards annually to buildings that demonstrate the best of British architecture and has criticised many new housing developments in the past for their lack of quality, cheap materials, and unimaginative design, labelling some housing schemes as “shameful shoe-box homes.”
This year however 9 individual properties and 7 housing developments are among the 37 winners of RIBA’s best building awards in the ‘house’ and ‘residential’ categories respectively. Quoted in The Independent, Philip Gumuchdijian, Chair of the RIBA awards group, said that high quality housing developments were the stand-out trend of 2015. The nominated projects showed it was possible to build “exceptional new housing developments that are profitable, sustainable and desirable places to live,” he said. “There is obviously a desperate need for housing. It can be difficult to create beautiful spaces when there is a formula but this is a year of good architecture that will be useful.”
The seven housing developments that have won awards in RIBA’s ‘residential’ category are:
- Brentford Lock West, London
- Laurieston Transformational Area, Glasgow
- Parkside, Derbyshire
- NEO Bankside, London
- Darbishire Place, London
- West Burn Lane, St Andrews
- Abode, Cambridgeshire
Two of the housing developments are housing association schemes. The Laurieston Transformational Area in the Gorbals district of Glasgow was a £22.3 million project for the New Gorbals Housing Association. Three tower blocks were demolished in 2012 to make way for the scheme, which provides 201 affordable homes for rent in a new layout of streets and mews settings. The development has achieved an Eco Homes standard of ‘Very Good’ and has won the RIBA Award for Scotland 2015 as well as the Scottish Government’s Client of the Year Award 2015. RIBA says of the scheme: “Reinterpreting the traditional Glasgow tenement, these blocks, fittingly urban in scale, provide high quality homes close to the heart of the city.” The Architects’ Journal says the scheme uses “a contemporary tenement form with a variety of housing types – apartments, maisonettes and terraced houses – all exploiting the rich possibilities of corners, southern aspect and courtyard environments.” The designers have replaced the bay windows “typical of many Glasgow residential blocks with balconies excavated into the depth of the red brick wall” whilst the four-storey apartment block “stands as an object perceived in the round within a parkland setting.”
Darbishire Place in Whtechapel, East London was a £2.3 million project for the Peabody Housing Association and has won a RIBA London Award. Philip Gumuchdijian, Chair of the RIBA awards group, described the scheme in The Independent as “a super high quality block that is beautifully crafted.” “That’s Peabody,” he added, “notionally among the most economic. And it’s beautifully done.” RIBA’s website says “this dignified new building, with its refined proportions and details, replaces a fine Peabody mansion block taken out in the Second World War by a V2 bomb, along with another block whose footprint now provides a garden at the heart of the newly completed courtyard. The use of materials and form allows the new building to complement its neighbours without mimicking them… On the south side a sliver of the building slides out of the square and forms a very narrow and elegant elevation, which leads one into the scheme, providing a further level of interest and architectural distinctiveness.”
The Independent reports that another trend in this year’s list is the renaissance of brick as the dominant material amongst the award winners. RIBA’s President Stephen Hodder is quoted as saying it was an intriguing development: “Brick is firmly established in the British psyche as a safe, long-lasting, familiar material. Architects are using it more and more. People are interested less in fake bricks but more in real brickwork and craftsmanship,” he said. The Independent points out that this comes despite a brick shortage in the UK with the Federation of Master Builders warning that housing projects could be threatened by contractors struggling to get deliveries of bricks in less than two months.
Winners of RIBA awards in the ‘house’ category include a fishing hut in Hampshire, a garden studio in Wiltshire, a barn on the South Downs, and two self-build projects: a cliff house on the Gower peninsular, and a house in Somerset whose walls are insulated using recycled paper and whose garden contains a 4,500 litre rainwater tank. For more information, see the RIBA website.