Accordia Project Wins Design Prize

High volume, high density housing. It is all around us.
But not this kind. When a development project is done right, it is good for the developer/client and it is good for the community. When a project results in an improved bottom line for everyone, that is a serious win-win.
Accordia in Cambridge in London is the Stirling Prize 2008 winner. InteriorDesign.Net reports that development projects typically involve an architect, a building contractor and the developer/client, and of course the local governmental planning authorities. Notable about the Accordia Cambridge project is that it was a consortium of three very different architectural firms – Feilden Clegg Bradley, Maccreanor Lavington and Alison Brooks Architects (FCBS).

On a brownfield site in Cambridge, London – formerly owned by the military - FCBS beautifully designed high-quality architecture in high-volume, high-density housing. The local governmental planners led by the remarkable Peter Studdert have been imaginative and firm with objectors. Developer/clients are too frequently met by local government planning departments who use their powers to withhold permission - unless the developer/clients use good architects to produce fine architecture, as was done here. The Judges said: "The local governmental planning department led by Peter Studdert recognized remarkable design plans."

* What other authority would have allowed terraces at first and second floor level, instead of banning them on grounds of over-looking?
* Where else would house-builders have been dissuaded from bowing to the supposed need of homeowners for a minimum 15 metre strip of garden behind the house?
* Here several busy residents spoke to judges about their sense of liberation from the demands of gardening. Instead there is common land where children safely play as if in some idyllic throwback to the 1950s.
* Houses and flats have good-sized, well-proportioned rooms with views out ranging from urban to rural pasture.
* There is plenty of variety in the house-plans too, from the understated simplicity of the FCBS layouts, to the highly complex plans of architect Maccreanor Lavington with their two staircases and their ambiguous inside-outside spaces; and the scissor plan stairs in some of the architect Alison Brooks houses.
* The detailing too varies with the architect, producing a different aesthetic in each. These are traditional houses but with a twist
* Much of the construction was fabricated off site to increase speed of construction, reduce waste, and to improve site safety and environmental performance
* This is a Span-type housing for the 21st century, much community aspirations and aesthetics with plenty of individuality in the flexible house plans. Mews garages have often been turned into studios or offices, even granny annexes; there is privacy on (most of) the terraces and balconies; but there are village greens and strips of common land, cars are tamed not banned – this is architecture that treats adults as grown-ups and children as people with different needs.

Accordia has already won numerous awards: Housing Design Awards – overall winner (2006); Building for Life Awards: Gold Standard (2006); National Homebuilder Design Awards (2006); Civic Trust (2007).
Accordia, Architects: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Alison Brooks Architects, and Macreanor Lavington; Client: Countryside Properties

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