Stirling Prize 2019: Goldsmith Street, Norwich

We are delighted to announce that the 2019 RIBA Stirling Prize has been won by a project where AJA carried out both the acoustic design and sound testing. This is the first time ever that the Stirling Prize has been awarded to a social housing design.

Goldsmith Street is a major social housing development consisting of over 100 energy-efficient homes. Its origins date back to 2008 when a RIBA competition was announced by Norwich City Council.  The contract was won by architects Mikhail Riches and Cathy Hawley, and central to their brief was that the scheme would achieve the stringent Passivhaus certification.  Following the financial crash, proposals were put on hold for a number of years, but in 2019 the project was finally completed.

Located close to the centre of Norwich, the design has transformed the area by introducing streets and low-rise houses with landscaping into an area dominated by blocks of flats.  Features include  a shared alley which acts as a communal area.  This is accessible via back gardens, offering a secure place for children’s play.  Dwellings range from one bed flats to four bedroom houses and there is an emphasis on sunny, light-filled homes with many rooms facing south.

The development has resulted in one of the largest Low Carbon schemes in Europe, with average energy bills of £150 per year.  It comes as no surprise that Goldsmith Street has already received a number of prestigious awards, with the Stirling Prize marking a pinnacle of achievement.  In awarding the prize, the judges – chaired by Julia Barfield – described Goldsmith Street as a “modest masterpiece”.

Part of this project’s success was in the choice of high quality companies to undertake each stage of the development.  Building control contractors Build Insight requested Adrian James Acoustics carry out the detailed acoustic design, and we drew on our considerable experience to ensure high standards were maintained. Amongst the many challenges we faced was in designing special sound-insulating details for more than a dozen complex wall and floor junctions.

The success of our technical design is reflected in the results of our pre-completion testing.   We undertook 39 separate impact and sound insulation tests.  Every one of the passed very comfortably and on average the results were more than 10 dB better than required.

Goldsmith Street is a ground-breaking project which could act as an inspiration for future social housing developments.  As the Guardian architecture columnist Oliver Wainwright commented: “I have seen the future and it’s Norwich”.