Stirling Prize for Accordia Housing
The jury commended the dwellings for being "beautifully thought-through," and expressed appreciation for the variety of floor plans, "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."
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Central to the project is a strong landscape concept, developed with landscape architects Grant Associates. Public outdoor spaces range from children's play areas and landscaped gardens to a meadow adjoining a creek. A connection to the outdoors permeates the housing, with its extensive glazing and many private balconies, terraces, and courtyards.
The location of Accordia affords residents good access to transit and to the city center — a key element in reducing the long-term environmental impact of residential developments. A network of paths throughout the site also makes it very accessible for pedestrians and bikers.
High building thermal mass, insulation, and careful detailing to avoid cold bridging help maintain comfortable indoor temperatures year-round and improve energy efficiency. Materials such as composite timber, aluminum windows, copper, and untreated hardwood offer durability and low maintenance.
Other sustainable aspects of the project include preservation of over 700 existing trees, a significant degree of off-site building fabrication to speed construction and reduce waste, and a system of permeable surfaces to retain stormwater for irrigation use.
Accordia's success can be traced in part to aspects of the planning process. The Stirling Prize jury praised the Cambridge city government for its unusually assertive and positive role:
"[T]he 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?"
Feilden Clegg Bradley ensured variety in the building stock by enlisting the younger firms of Maccreanor Lavington and Alison Brooks Architects to design 25 percent and ten percent of the housing, respectively. And for its part, the project's original developer, Countryside Properties, supported good design as an effective way to add value to the development.
The Stirling Prize recognizes the first phase of Accordia, built with Countryside as developer; the company sold the later phases of the project to Redeham Homes. The awards jury reports that the new developer seems to be staying faithful to the original plan and intent.
"This is high density housing at its very best," the jury extolled, "demonstrating that volume house-builders can deliver high quality architecture — and that as a result they can improve their own bottom line."
"It is architecture which gives hope for us all for the future."
The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) awards the Stirling Prize annually, with cosponsor The Architects' Journal, to the architects of the building that has made "the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year," drawing from projects throughout the European Union. Now in its 13th year, the prize is named after the architect Sir James Stirling (1926-1992).
Past winners include the Museum of Modern Literature by David Chipperfield Architects, Barajas Airport by Richard Rogers Partnership (now Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners), The Scottish Parliament by EMBT / RMJM, 30 St. Mary Axe by Foster + Partners, the Laban Centre by Herzog and de Meuron, and Gateshead Millennium Bridge by Wilkinson Eyre Architects.
For this year's prize, Accordia prevailed over five other shortlisted buildings: Amsterdam Bijlmer ArenA Station, Amsterdam, Netherlands, by Grimshaw and ARCADIS Architecten; Manchester Civil Justice Centre, Manchester, UK, by Denton Corker Marshall; Nord Park Cable Railway, Innsbruck, Austria, by Zaha Hadid Architects; Royal Festival Hall, London, by Allies and Morrison, and Westminster Academy at the Naim Dangoor Centre, London, by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris.
The 2008 RIBA Stirling Prize jury included Eva Jiricna, Eva Jiricna Architects; Gordon Murray, Murray Dunlop Architects; Shelley McNamara Grafton Architects; Kieran Long, editor of The Architects' Journal; and Diarmuid Gavin, Diarmuid Gavin Designs.
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