Kingston University London, Town House Building Development, Grafton Architects English Architecture

Kingston University London – Town House

Student ‘Town House’ named UK’s best new building – 2021 RIBA Stirling Prize winner

26 April 2022

Town House is 2022 Mies van der Rohe Award Winner

2022 Mies van der Rohe Award

post updated 21 February 2022

2022 Mies van der Rohe Award Finalists

Town House is one of Seven Finalists For The 2022 European Union Prize For Contemporary Architecture – Mies Van Der Rohe Award

Kingston University London Town House by Grafton Architects
photograph © Ed Reeve

2022 Mies van der Rohe Award

Thursday 14 October 2021

Kingston University London – Town House by Grafton Architects wins Stirling Prize

Town House Kingston University London building interior design
photograph © Ed Reeve

Thursday 14 October 2021 – The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has named Kingston University London – Town House designed by Grafton Architects, as the winner of the 25th RIBA Stirling Prize.

A progressive new model for the design of higher education buildings, the dynamic student ‘Town House’ expertly captures the spirit of learning and the value of community cohesion.

Grafton Architects have designed a purposefully democratic and open space, as its name suggests: Town – referring to the building’s civic dimension, and House – reflecting a sense of home and belonging. Many of the students at Kingston are the first in their family to attend university and this building sends an important message to them, their educators and the local community, that this is a place where everyone is welcome and valued.

Kingston University London, Town House building Kingston University London, Town House building
photo © Dennis Gilbert

Set back from the street, the project extends the public realm, generously blurring its boundary with the pavement and inviting everyone in – students, locals and visitors alike. There are no barriers. A 200m long six-storey, deep colonnade offers shadow and shelter, with terraces and gardens above creating shelves of connected public space. The facades are permeable: open and transparent at the lower levels – revealing views to the passer-by of the engaging activities taking place inside – becoming more shaded at upper levels.

Kingston University London Town House by Grafton Architects
photograph © Ed Reeve

Equally open and spacious inside, users and visitors are greeted by the public forum, leading to an amphitheatre. From the ground floor, eyes are drawn up through the building – through voids and staircases – to complementing social and study spaces. Exemplary acoustic design enables the bustling public forum, quiet library, archive, dance studio and theatre to co-exist, and enrich the experience of the users.

Kingston University London, Town House building
photo © Alice Clancy

Generous volumes allow people, light and air to flow naturally through the building, which also uses a thermally-activated concrete frame to reduce operational energy use. This highly-adaptable building will stand the test of time and provide an inspiring environment for students, residents and visitors for years to come.

Kingston University London, Town House
photo © Ed Reeve

Speaking on behalf of the 2021 RIBA Stirling Prize jury, Lord Norman Foster, said:

“Kingston University Town House is a theatre for life – a warehouse of ideas. It seamlessly brings together student and town communities, creating a progressive new model for higher education, well deserving of international acclaim and attention.

In this highly original work of architecture, quiet reading, loud performance, research and learning, can delightfully co-exist. That is no mean feat. Education must be our future – and this must be the future of education.”

Kingston University London Town House by Grafton Architects
photo © Ed Reeve

Grafton Architects, said:

“We imagined a place where students would feel at home. This building is about people, interaction, light, possibilities. It is about connecting to the community, the passer-by, an invitation to cross the threshold; a three-dimensional framework with layers of silence and layers of sound. Space, volume and light are the organisers. The building edges are not boundaries but active gathering spaces, terraces, galleries. Being outside under the big sky is always just a few steps away. Kingston University gave us this educational vision which we translated into a spatial open matrix. We are absolutely delighted the Kingston Town House has won the prestigious Stirling Prize.”

Kingston University London Town House by Grafton Architects
photo © Ed Reeve

Kingston University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Steven Spier, said:

“We had an incredibly ambitious brief – to create a space for students that would allow them to benefit from knowing each other, a library to inspire learning, dance studios and a softening of the threshold between gown and town. Grafton Architects delivered just such an innovative programme. The result is a breathtaking new building for Kingston University.

The Stirling Prize confirms Town House as a world-class building and, therefore, a fitting foil to the aspirations of our students, many of whom are the first in their families to go to university. It is invigorating to witness the creativity, collaboration and shared learning this open, inviting space fosters. Our students have embraced Town House, relishing the opportunity to find their place within it and make its many spaces their own.

Working with an architecture practice of Grafton Architects substantial expertise and international stature on what was their first building in the United Kingdom has enabled us to attain our bold vision for Town House – an achievement of which our students, staff and the wider community are truly proud.”

Kingston University London, Town House building
photo © Dennis Gilbert

Kingston University Director of Estates and Sustainability, Sean Woulfe, said:

“Commencing the process of finding an exceptional architect by using a RIBA design competition demonstrates the value Kingston University places on excellent design. It is in the institution’s DNA.  We wanted Town House to be unique and, in Grafton Architects, we found a practice that understood our ambition. They have led the delivery of a Stirling Prize-winning building that seamlessly incorporates such disparate uses as a library, dance studios and studio theatre. Town House has transformed the image of the University in the borough, becoming a catalyst for changing the way we do things.

Designing a statement building that manages to properly acknowledge its context without pastiche was very important to us. Grafton Architects’ selection of reconstituted stone for Town House’s colonnade acknowledges the grade II listed Surrey County Hall building opposite, without compromising the contemporary expression of this new building.

The University’s sustainability commitments have been another key consideration. The colonnade provides solar shading, cooling the building and reducing energy consumption, with other features including a photovoltaic array, a large sustainable urban draining system, two roof gardens and landscaping designed to support increased biodiversity.

The building was brought to life by Willmott Dixon Construction, with its design features enhanced by excellent construction quality, particularly the fairfaced blockwork, the ground floor polished concrete slab, together with the oak flooring and stair-treads and plywood panelling, which provide visual warmth. The contractor delivered on Grafton Architects vision, understanding the importance of ensuring the quality of the finish across all aspects of the building met the highest expectations.”

Kingston University London – Town House was chosen by the jury from the following outstanding shortlisted projects:

The jury for the 2021 RIBA Stirling Prize was: Lord Norman Foster (Chair), Simon Allford (RIBA President), architect Annalie Riches (2019 RIBA Stirling Prize winner) and artist Dame Phyllida Barlow. The jury was advised by architect Mina Hasman (Sustainability Expert).

Grafton Architects won the 2013 RIBA Competition to design the Town House. It is the Dublin-based practice’s first built project in the UK. Grafton Architects was the recipient of the Royal Gold Medal for architecture in 2020.


Previously on e-architect:

post updated 16 September 2021

Design: Grafton Architects

Location: Kingston upon Thames, England, UK

Grafton Architects

Kingston University London Building Design

Kingston University London – Town House Building

Jury Report

Of the two ambitious projects from the same client to make the shortlist, the Town House is the more conventional architectural project. It is very accomplished. The challenging brief framed a bold aspiration to design the beating heart for Kingston University within a building worthy of the international stage. Combining two dynamically opposed uses – dance studio and library – the result is both technically and spatially excellent, generating a warm, dynamic energy that truly captures the spirit of learning.

Kingston University London, Town House
photo : Dennis Gilbert

Conceptually, the building exploits two key devices: the colonnade and the courtyard. Wrapping the building in a tall colonnade gives it presence on the street, successfully balancing the need to make a landmark statement with the wider need to respond respectfully in size and scale to its context. This objective is further aided by the exquisite detailing of the exposed concrete frame, its language running inside and out, replicated and rotated at each junction but never repeated.

Kingston University London, Town House
photo : Dennis Gilbert

The collision and separation of opposing uses, like a dance itself, creates endless connections through voids, views, stairs and windows. When occupied by people, the dynamic interplay will prevent the building from feeling sterile or institutional. The acoustics, too, are expertly controlled, with quiet and noisy uses set symbiotically side by side. Spaces flow freely around the inner courtyard where students meet, surrounded by creativity on all sides.

Film on YouTube

The building performs well environmentally, achieving BREEAM Excellent in design. Its embodied carbon has been reduced through structural efficiency, the use of better concrete mixes, and designing out the need for a carbon intensive basement. As well as performing architectural and aesthetic functions, the concrete frame’s thermal mass helps to regulate indoor temperatures, reducing the overall energy load.

Kingston University London, Town House
photo : Alice Clancy

This building is about high quality at every scale, from the choice of materials, to the more abstract characteristics of warmth and flow. The muted colour palette and detailing too is controlled and expertly executed: nothing is out of place, everything is considered, and the result is a rich, beautiful canvas against which to set young creative minds free.

Kingston University London, Town House
photo : Alice Clancy

Kingston University London – Town Houses, UK – Building Information

RIBA region: London
Architect practice: Grafton Architects
Date of completion: December 2019
Client company name: Kingston University London
Project city/town: London
Contract value: £42,460,000.00
Internal area: 9,056.00 m²
Cost per m²: £4,689.00 / m²
Contractor company name: Willmott Dixon Construction


Structural Engineers: AKT II
Environmental / M&E Engineers: ChapmanBDSP
Acoustic Engineers: Applied Acoustic Design

Landscape Architects: Dermot Foley Landscape Architects

Project Management: Turner & Townsend

Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant: Turner & Townsend

Lighting Design: ChapmanBDSP

Fire Safety: ChapmanBDSP
Access: MSA
Transport Signage Wayfinding: Steer
Planning: Lichfields
Facade: Billings Design Associates
Security: MFD
Archaeology: MOLA
BIM Coordinator: BIM Technologies

Theatre Consultants: Sound Space Vision
Catering: Keith Winton Design
AV Consultants: PTS
Branding: Bond & Coyne
CDM: Turner & Townsend


• RIBA National Award
• RIBA Regional Award
• Regional/RSAW Client of the Year
• Regional Award Short List
• London Southwest

Grafton Architects

University building designs

Kingston University London – Town House by Grafton Architects images / information received 160921

20 Oct 2022
Middle Mill Building RIBA Competition, Kingston University London
Middle Mill Building Competition, Kingston University

Phone: 020 8417 9000

Location: 55-59 Penrhyn Rd, Kingston upon Thames KT1 2EE, England, UK

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