A cork house and council estate are up for best new building

Judges said the cork house ‘harks back to a time when humans and nature were more intertwined'.

A cork house and a council estate are in the running for the UK’s best new building.

Six builds, including a distillery and opera theatre, have been shortlisted for this year’s Riba Stirling Prize.

They include the “experimental” Cork House in Berkshire, made almost entirely from plant-based materials.

The interior of Cork House
The interior of Cork House (Ricky Jones)

The house is compared to a “giant, organic Lego system” for the way in which it can be easily assembled and disassembled.

The “ingenious” home is made almost entirely from cork – aside from some timber, structural beams and glass windows – and described as a “first of its kind”.

Judges said: “The structure draws upon ancient inspiration, harking back to a time when humans and nature were more intertwined.”

Cork House
Cork House (Ricky Jones)

The house was conceived as a kit-of-parts, with blocks of expanded cork prefabricated off-site and then assembled by hand without mortar or glue.

With a solid structural cork wall and roof, the building “emits next to zero carbon”.

All the components can be reused or recycled, and the expanded cork blocks were made using by-product and waste from cork forestry and the cork stopper industry.

Meanwhile, a council housing scheme built entirely for social rent is on the shortlist for the first time.

Goldsmith Street
Goldsmith Street (Tim Crocker)

Judges said the streets feel safe and “owned” by pedestrians, rather than cars, thanks to the design.

Goldsmith Street is a large development of 105 “highly energy-efficient homes” for social rent, for Norwich City Council.

The “radical reconfiguration and development” of London Bridge Station is also on the shortlist.

Renovated London Bridge Station, Grimshaw Architects
Renovated London Bridge Station, Grimshaw Architects (Paul Raftery)

The busy London station now has a “voluminous, light-filled concourse” and “does not feel overcrowded, even during rush hour” as a result of “bold, radical interventions”.

The “high-tech and futuristic” Macallan Distillery and Visitor Experience in Speyside, Scotland, could also win best new building.

Nevill Holt Opera, a £5 million contemporary opera theatre within a 17th-century stable block in Leicestershire has also been whittled down from a longlist of more than 50.

And Yorkshire Sculpture Park’s £3.6 million visitor centre and gallery The Weston, on the site of a former millstone grit quarry, completes the shortlist.

Judges say it is “almost as though the building has been hewn from the ground.”

Riba president Ben Derbyshire said the shortlist comes as the “UK faces the worst housing crisis for generations”.

The Weston
The Weston (Mikael Olsson)

He said: “These six buildings could hardly be more diverse in typology and scale – from a rustic stable block-turned-theatre to a vast national railway station.

“But what they have in common – ground-breaking innovation, extraordinary creativity and the highest quality materials and detailing – sets them apart, rightfully earning them a chance to win the highest accolade in architecture.”

Nevill Holt opera
Nevill Holt Opera (Helene Binet)

He added: “Given the fact the UK faces the worst housing crisis for generations and a global climate emergency, we must encourage their architectural ambition, innovation, bravery and skill.

“From the way that Cork House experiments with plant-based materials, to Goldsmith Street’s ultra-low energy affordable homes, each of these six buildings push the boundaries of architecture, exceeding what has been done before, and providing solutions to some of the most pressing challenges of our times.”

London Bridge Station
London Bridge Station (Network Rail)

A new tower at Westminster Abbey, Battersea Arts Centre in London, which had been left derelict after a fire, the restoration of Charles Rennie Mackintosh’s Art Deco tea rooms in Glasgow and V&A Dundee all made the longlist but failed to make the cut for the shortlist.

The winner of the 2019 Riba Stirling Prize will be announced on October 8 at the Roundhouse in London.

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