Britain’s most prestigious architecture prize has been won – for the first time in its 13-year history – by a housing scheme.

However, whether or not the recipient of the Royal Institute of British Architects’ Stirling Prize reflected a changing zeitgeist or simply underlined the poor standard of most UK housebuilding, a scheme of the quality and intelligence of Cambridge’s Accordia deserved its evening in the televised spotlight on Saturday.

The housing scheme was masterplanned by Feilden Clegg Bradley, the architects, for Countryside Properties, the developers, and the architects, unusually, brought in two other practices, Maccreanor Lavington and Alison Brooks Architects, to introduce a less monocultural feel to a large site. The plot was previously occupied by the military and was, in effect, Cambridge’s last significant brownfield site.

The Accordia development, of 187 dwellings, runs counter to almost all current UK housing in that the city’s planners fought for the developer to use good architects. Another difference is that the site has been densely developed at 47 homes a hectare, against the average of about 25 homes a hectare.

Financial Times