RIBA Gold Medal-winning studio Grafton Architects has been awarded the European Union’s annual architecture award for Town House, a colonnaded teaching building designed for Kingston University in London.
The six-storey Town House is the first university building to have ever won the prize and it will also be the last-ever building in the UK to do so, as the country is no longer eligible to apply for the Mies van der Rohe Award after Brexit.
Town House was created to act as Kingston University’s “front door and a gateway to Kingston upon Thames” and comprises interlocking open-plan volumes with a colonnaded facade.
It won the prize for its “remarkable environmental quality that creates an excellent atmosphere for studying, dancing, gathering and being together,” the awards announcement stated.
“This is the first time that a university building wins the architecture prize and it shows that there is a need for public educational projects with the quality of this one, which dignifies people’s lives through education and being together and gives the same educational possibilities to everybody,” it added.
Town House, which was chosen from a list of 532 works from 41 countries, has previously won the Stirling Prize and was designed as a mixed-use teaching building for the university.
Its statement facade was constructed from reconstituted stone, chosen to match the building next to it.
It is complemented by an inner facade that is set back from the columns and lined with brick and floor-to-ceiling windows.
The Mies van der Rohe Award also revealed Spanish architecture Lacol as its emerging architect for the design of its La Borda Cooperative Housing.
“This cooperative project is transgressive in its context because although housing production is mainly dominated by macroeconomic interests, in this case, the model is based on co-ownership and co-management of shared resources and capacities,” the announcement said.
The two projects were chosen by a jury that consisted of architect Tatiana Bilbao, journalist and curator Francesca Ferguson, architect Mia Hägg, art historian Triin Ojari, architect Georg Pendl, former Thessaloniki deputy mayor Spiros Pengas and architect Marcel Smets.
“I congratulate the winners of the EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award, who have demonstrated the creative and innovative potential of European architecture,” the European commissioner for innovation, research, culture, education and youth Mariya Gabriel said.
“It is particularly encouraging to see the contribution of contemporary architecture to improving the well-being of citizens in Europe like we are also doing with the New European Bauhaus.”
The overall winner of the Mies van der Rohe Award receives €60,000.
Town House beat four other finalists – Z33 House for Art, Architecture and Design in Hasselt; the Railway Farm in Paris; 85 social housing units in Cornellà de Llobregat; and Frizz23 in Berlin – to win the award.
It will be the final UK project to do so. “In the funding period 21-27, UK entities are not eligible to participate in EU grants procedures by default, since the UK became a third country with the entry into force of the EU-UK Withdrawal Agreement signed on 1 February 2020,” the award announcement stated.
Past winners of the Mies van der Rohe Award include Frédéric Druot Architecture, Lacaton & Vassal Architectes and Christophe Hutin Architecture’s renovation of 1960s housing in France (2019), a revamp of an apartment block by NL Architects and XVW Architectuur (2017), and Barozzi Veiga’s Szczecin Philharmonic Hall in Poland (2015).
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