Stephen Lawrence Prize for best small project

Surman Weston has won the RIBA Stephen Lawrence Prize for best small project for its Hackney School of Food – a £307,000 retrofit of a caretaker’s house

Article from The Architects Journal by Fran Williams:

The prize celebrates the nation’s best small-scale projects and recognises buildings with a construction value of less than £1 million. Surman Weston’s community hub in east London teaches children how to grow and cook food. It is a joint venture project between a charity and a federation of schools.

The AJ 40 under 40 emerging talent had two schemes on the shortlist with its two-storey detached house in Surbiton also in the running.

The judges described the practice’s winning project as ‘a much-needed kitchen school for all pupils in Hackney, an inspiring place to teach children how to grow, cook and eat food, while serving as an important community hub.’

They said Surman Weston’s ‘unselfconscious’ and ‘thoughtful’ architectural response as ‘underpinned by a strong and distinctive design philosophy, driven by an ethos of maximising educational impact’.

The jury added: ‘The project is accessible, safe, biodiverse, rich in social nourishment and worthy of a visit if you are in the area – if for nothing else, some chicken-hugging wellness!’

The scheme, which won an AJ Retrofit Award in 2021, has gardens that have been transformed into thriving productive spaces which allow children to grow food from seeds, and provide outdoor cooking and eating spaces. A colourful mural gives the previously stark street-facing elevation a cheerful presence within its Clapton community.

Photo: Jim Stephenson

Matthew Goldschmied, one of the judges for the award, said: ‘The success of Hackney School of Food is not limited to this one site. The architect and client have developed an inspirational blueprint to teach others how to regenerate and enliven their own communities in a similar way.

‘The bold and inventive investment exemplifies the power of architecture to transform not only the building it touches, but the community it serves.’

Goldschmied is managing trustee of the Marco Goldschmied Foundation and the son of Marco Goldschmied, a former RIBA president who founded the Stephen Lawrence Prize but died earlier this year. Also on the jury were Doreen Lawrence, mother of Stephen and founder of the Stephen Lawrence Day Foundation; and Mike Tonkin, director of Tonkin Liu, which won the Stephen Lawrence Prize in 2018 and 2021.

The projects were chosen from a shortlist that also featured the restoration of a 1960s Modernist house by Chiles Evans + Care Architects, Gagarin Studio’s sculptural footbridge in Leeds, McMahon Architecture’s finely detailed four-storey home in Waltham Forest and Will Gamble Architects’ The Parchment Works. Sanchez Benton’s overhaul of a former Brutalist garage in London to create a studio space and roof garden was given a special commendation by the prize’s jury.

The Stephen Lawrence Prize is awarded for any project with a construction budget of under £1 million, and was established in 1998 in memory of Stephen Lawrence, a teenager and aspiring architect murdered in a racist attack in Eltham in 1993.

The winner of was announced as part of the Stirling Prize ceremony at the RIBA headquarters tonight (Thursday 13 October). Previous winners include Mole Architects, Níall McLaughlin Architects, Denizen Works and Duggan Morris Architects.

Stephen Lawrence Prize 2022 shortlist

  • Hackney School of Food (London) by Surman Weston [WINNER]
  • Peveril Gardens and studios (London) by Sanchez Benton Architects [SPECIAL COMMENDATION]
  • Leeds Footbridge (Yorkshire) by Gagarin Studio
  • Leyton House (London) by McMahon Architecture
  • Ravine House (Derbyshire) by Chiles Evans + Care Architects
  • Surbiton Springs (London) by Surman Weston
  • The Parchment Works (Northamptonshire) by Will Gamble Architects

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