Kingston University’s Town House carries off highest accolade in European architecture

Kingston University’s Town House building has been named winner of the EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award, the highest accolade in European architecture.

The landmark building is one of only three UK projects (along with Stansted Airport terminal by Foster and Partners and Nicholas Grimshaw’s Waterloo International railway station) to have won the prestigious European Union prize.

Town House is also the first university building to win the award, cementing its international status after it carried off the coveted RIBA Stirling Prize for the United Kingdom’s best new building in 2021.

Designed by RIBA Gold medal-winning Irish practice Grafton Architects, Town House opened its doors at the University’s Penrhyn Road campus in January 2020. It was conceived as part of a bold vision to create an inspirational new learning space that also acted as a gateway to the university for borough residents and businesses. Housing a three-floor academic library, archive, dance studios, a studio theatre and courtyard, the six-storey structure Town House was built by three-time Education Constructor of the Year winner Willmott Dixon Construction.

The prize jury said: “The building creates an emotional experience from within and through the multi-level façade colonnade that creates a domestic atmosphere on different levels. It accommodates dance, library and study spaces using layers of silence and layers of sound which work perfectly well together.

“This is the first time a university building has won the architecture prize and it shows the potential of public educational projects with the quality of this one, which dignifies people’s lives through education and togetherness and gives equal educational possibilities to everybody.”

Kingston University Vice-Chancellor, Professor Steven Spier, said: “We know how special Town House is – what the building means to our students, staff and the wider community, how it brings everyone together and inspires all those who get to enjoy its many spaces studying and working at or visiting Kingston University. With the award of both the RIBA Stirling Prize and now the EU Mies van der Rohe Award, Town House’s value has been recognised on a global scale.

“We’re truly delighted with the magnificent building Grafton Architects has designed for us. Across its library, dance studios, courtyard and array of spaces, students can experience a variety of ways of understanding the world, which is what a university education is about. It also softens the threshold between the University and its surroundings, inviting the community in.

“Town House stands as an inspirational demonstration of the impact great architecture can have within higher education and will be enjoyed by many generations of Kingston University students for years to come.”