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Winners of RIBA East Awards 2021 revealed, including Cambridge Central Mosque, Royal Papworth Hospital and Imperial War Museum

Work on the Royal Papworth Hospital, the new archive building at the Imperial War Museum in Duxford and key worker housing at Eddington have earned RIBA East Awards for their architectural merit.

RIBA East Awards 2021: Cambridge Central Mosque, by Marks Barfield Architects, London
RIBA East Awards 2021: Cambridge Central Mosque, by Marks Barfield Architects, London

But it was Cambridge Central Mosque that earned the coveted RIBA East Building of the Year title for 2021 for Marks Barfield Architects in London.

Twelve buildings across the East were chosen as winners by the Royal Institute of British Architects this year, and seven of them were from in and around Cambridge.

They were:

Cambridge Central Mosque, by Marks Barfield Architects, London

RIBA East Awards 2021: Cambridge Central Mosque, by Marks Barfield Architects, London
RIBA East Awards 2021: Cambridge Central Mosque, by Marks Barfield Architects, London

Imperial War Museums Paper Store, Duxford, by Architype, London

RIBA East Awards 2021: Imperial War Museums Paper Store, Duxford, by Architype, London
RIBA East Awards 2021: Imperial War Museums Paper Store, Duxford, by Architype, London

Key Worker Housing, Eddington, by Stanton Williams, London

RIBA East Awards 2021: Key Worker Housing, Eddington, by Stanton Williams, London
RIBA East Awards 2021: Key Worker Housing, Eddington, by Stanton Williams, London

Private house, Cambridge, by NRAP Architects, Cambridge

RIBA East Award 2021: Private House, Cambridge, by NRAP Architects, Cambridge
RIBA East Award 2021: Private House, Cambridge, by NRAP Architects, Cambridge

Royal Papworth Hospital, Addenbrookes, by HOK International, London

RIBA East Awards 2021: Royal Papworth Hospital by HOK International, London
RIBA East Awards 2021: Royal Papworth Hospital by HOK International, London

Simple House, Cambridge, by Haysom Ward Miller, Cambridge

RIBA East Awards 2021: Simple House, Cambridge, by Haysom Ward Miller, Cambridge
RIBA East Awards 2021: Simple House, Cambridge, by Haysom Ward Miller, Cambridge

Student Services Centre, University of Cambridge, by Bennetts Associates, London

RIBA East Awards 2021: Student Services Centre, University of Cambridge, by Bennetts Associates, London
RIBA East Awards 2021: Student Services Centre, University of Cambridge, by Bennetts Associates, London

Below, we detail what the judges had to say about each of them.

Elsewhere in the region, the following picked up awards:


  • Private house, Oxhey, by Fletcher Crane Architects, London
  • St Albans Cathedral Welcome and Learning Centre, by Simpson and Brown, Edinburgh
  • The Byre and the Garrett, Berkhamsted, by Hugo Hardy Architect, Herts
  • Woodside Mews, Leavesden, by TAS Architects, Herts


  • The Water Tower, Norfolk, by Tonkin Liu, London

Regional jury chair Luke Tozer said: “The winning projects in this year’s RIBA East Awards cover a wide range of scales and typologies - a testament to the amount of work being commissioned in the region.

“From individual homes to large institutional buildings, the award-winners are united in demonstrating architectural excellence on their own terms.

“We saw some delightful projects that gave new life to existing structures, along with new buildings that beautifully married economy of means and environmental performance.

“In an unusual year, where the awards process was adapted to be Covid safe, we were able to benefit from the postponement of previous year’s awards with more time for the buildings to be used and a greater level of post occupancy feedback from clients and building users.”

RIBA East Awards 2021: Cambridge Central Mosque, by Marks Barfield Architects, London
RIBA East Awards 2021: Cambridge Central Mosque, by Marks Barfield Architects, London

In addition to architectural merit, the awards acknowledge buildings’ contribution to society. And it Cambridge Central Mosque also collected some special awards, which were announced along with the winners.

The Cambridge Mosque Trust also picked up the RIBA East Client of the Year while Matthew Wingrove made it a hat-trick for the practice when he was rewarded for his work on the scheme with the Project Architect of the Year award, sponsored by Taylor Maxwell.

The RIBA East Conservation Award went to St Albans Cathedral Welcome and Learning Centre by Simpson & Brown.

RIBA East Awards 2021: Imperial War Museums Paper Store, Duxford, by Architype, London
RIBA East Awards 2021: Imperial War Museums Paper Store, Duxford, by Architype, London

And the RIBA East Sustainability Award, sponsored by Michelmersh, was awarded to the Imperial War Museums Paper Store in Duxford, by Architype.

RIBA East Award 2021: Private House, Cambridge, by NRAP Architects, Cambridge
RIBA East Award 2021: Private House, Cambridge, by NRAP Architects, Cambridge

Meanwhile, the RIBA East Small Project of the Year went to the remodelling and extension of a private house in Cambridge, by Cambridge-based NRAP Architects.

The regional award winners will now go forward to be considered for a RIBA National Award, due to announced on Thursday September 9.

The shortlist for the RIBA Stirling Prize for the best building of the year will be drawn from the RIBA National Award-winning projects later in the year.

What the judges said about Cambridgeshire’s winners

Cambridge Central Mosque, by Marks Barfield Architects, London

The jury citation read: “The urban intervention of inserting a mosque capable of welcoming 1000 worshipers within a low rise, residential neighbourhood, without dominating it, is masterful. Its presence is clear but modest, considering the size of the mosque relative to the two storey terrace houses around it. This is achieved by setting it back from the street, progressing through the Islamic garden, then gradually increasing in scale to front portico, atrium with café to one side and study centre to the other, through to central ablution areas. The building then rises at the rear to the largest mass of the prayer hall, which shifts in geometry to face Mecca.

“The defining internal characteristic of the mosque is the timber ‘trees’ which form the structural support for the roof and the rooflights. The geometry of the trees was developed through work with geometric artist, Keith Critchlow, creating the underlying geometry of the mosque. It combines an Islamic ‘the Breath of the Compassionate’ pattern into a structural grid that supports the roof and is then brought to a point at the columns. It is a simple device that combines the structural logic of supporting a large span with few columns and a celebration of the structural material and its decorative possibilities, bringing to mind both Fosters’ Stansted Airport, and Kings College Chapel.

“The external brick tiles that clad the CLT structure are from traditional Cambridge Gault and red brick colours. The protruding headers form a pattern of Arabic Kufic calligraphy that reads ‘say he is God (the) one’.

“Social and environmental sustainability were central to the competition-winning scheme and have been delivered. The intent was to produce a building that is in accord with the spiritual belief that humanity’s role is as a responsible custodian of nature and should minimise its carbon footprint. The building has achieved Net Zero Carbon energy on site in use. The competing elements of the demand for car parking to suit large events with elderly congregations, creating an underground car park and the environmental consequences of embodied carbon have been recognised. The passive and active sustainable measures incorporated within the building meet and exceed some elements of the RIBA 2030 targets and other elements of the design have future-proofed the building to allow for predicted climate change.

“Material selection is exemplary, with the superstructure predominantly timber, low carbon concrete specified, and natural insulation resulting in minimal embodied carbon. The selection of Cradle to Cradle Certified products also demonstrates the conscious efforts to minimise the building’s impact on the environment.

“Water consumption is also low, meeting the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge target and confirmed by meter readings - in the water stressed area of East Anglia this is particularly important. The transformation of an impermeable surface to a building with green roofs to assist with local surface water runoff.

“Post occupancy evaluation data shows in use consumption are within 15 per cent of the energy predictions, which suggests a narrowing of the performance gap.

“Central Cambridge mosque is a demonstration of how architecture can embody religious and cultural philosophy and traditions while utilising sustainable and contemporary materials. It is a building of evident programmatic clarity and function, where one of those essential functions is religious contemplation and delight. It has created a new, 21st century, non-denominational British mosque that is both specific to its place and time and which resonates with wider Islamic and religious buildings. To have achieved this in Cambridge, with its world famous tradition of structural expression in religious architecture yet without contrivance is a remarkable achievement.”

Project Architect of the Year

“Matthew Wingrove is a passionate advocate for the building. The client, Iman Sejid Mekic, who operates the building every day, clearly respected his professional expertise and evidently liked him too. That he was able to bring to fruition a building that picks up the original competition winning design concept and deliver it to its full potential is a testament to his capabilities and his dedication.”

Client of the year – Cambridge Mosque Trust

“To launch an RIBA international competition and select a design and a design team and carry it through to successful completion over the following decade is testament to the commitment and dedication of the client to producing a contemporary mosque for the 21st century and an enduring piece of architecture. In particular, Dr Tim Winter, Shaykh Zayed Lecturer in Islamic Studies, Director of Studies, Wolfson College should be recognised both for the scale of the ambition, for pursuing a mosque that sets a new environmental and inclusive benchmark, and for the Trust’s rigorous and steadfast approach to seeing it through to completion.”

Imperial War Museums Paper Store, Duxford, by Architype, London

The jury report said: “The new archive building at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, is a weathered steel-clad facility nestled among a collection of important facilities that make up the Duxford Airfield conservation area. It sits peacefully and respectfully at the rear of the site, without detracting from the surrounding buildings, and creates a place for contemplation for those that have donated archival material.

“The plan is simple, but flexible, allowing for future expansion without compromising on the layout of the existing. Its minimal form, which creates a sculptural object in itself, is also in line with its sustainability credentials; ensuring that heat losses are minimised from additional corners and junctions.

“The cladding panels represent each year since 1914, and are punched to represent the volume of storage within a particular year, with those of high conflict heavily perforated. Due to the passive design and low requirement for services, minimal penetrations in the facade made this possible.

“Achieving a building with low embodied carbon materials whilst still achieving the additional fire safety requirements for such an important archive demonstrates the consideration of the design team in going beyond the typical specification of buildings of this type. The client has to be given high praise, for both testing the standard approach for archive design and for trusting the architect to develop the brief and manage the process through to successful completion.

“The predicted performance of the building is exemplary, with its final primary energy much lower than standard specification archive buildings, as well as lower than the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge figures for operational energy, and embodied carbon. The airtightness value is most likely the lowest measured value for a building, which, with the super insulation and passive design, creates stable internal temperatures and relative humidity without expensive mechanical systems.

“By challenging the brief, the architects and client have achieved an archival facility which creates both an emotional response and represents a blueprint for sustainable performance that could demonstrate significant savings in carbon in future designs.”

Key Worker Housing, Eddington, by Stanton Williams, London

The jury report said: “The urban approach of ‘loose’ interconnected courtyards is very successful and creates a delightful series of spaces. The walk from Market Square through four interwoven courts to reach Landscape Court is a pleasure, and easily accessible by all. The landscaping, both hard and soft, is particularly successful in integrating the buildings within a holistic and rigorous external environment.

“The scheme manages to feel as though it is part Cambridge college and part new piece of city. As such there is a slight ambiguity of what is truly public and what is private communal space for the residents, yet publicly accessible. This is deliberately employed in order to foster a communal sense within the development and an encouragement to use the space accordingly. With almost no private amenity space in the form of balconies, most external space is communal, either at roof level or ground level, so a resident wanting to enjoy a sunny afternoon is more than likely to bump into a neighbour.

“A calm, well considered palette of materials has been used throughout. The ground floor plinth is formed of mottled buff Cambridge brick, which extends vertically at level changes or to celebrate corner conditions. The upper light brick forms a gridded panel system, with rebates and sometimes interlacing with the plinth brick. Precast reconstituted stone is used for copings and cill ledges that run horizontally around at each floor level. Cycle stores and entrances are picked out in vertical black timber, which is then supplemented with oak reveals and entrance doors. Internally the staircases are celebrated with strong colours to emphasise the communal experience.

“The enclosed cycle courts wrapped in timber, with planters within, are a delightful treatment of what is often considered to be a banal storage requirement. Here cycling is celebrated and the cycle stores help to articulate the edges of the courtyard and the arrival sequences.

“The landscape incorporates water features and manages the water run-off and storage as an integral part of the landscape and journey from the hard surfaces of the Market Square to the heavily planted Landscape Court. The utilisation of CHP, rainwater harvesting and sustainable drainage was integrated into the design at the concept stage and has been successfully delivered. The buildings are designed to meet Code for Sustainable Homes Level 5 and non-residential spaces to BREEAM Excellent, which is to be commended.

“Overall the sequence of buildings and spaces between them is a delightful example of how a rigorous approach to form, materials and details can create a harmonious environment and make a great place. Eddington is emerging as a fascinating example of place creation and urban planning and this Key Worker Housing scheme has helped to establish a high benchmark for forthcoming phases.”

Private House, Cambridge, by NRAP Architects, Cambridge

The jury said: “A delightful two-storey extension and renewal of an existing elegant and simple L-shaped single-storey courtyard house.

“The wedge-shaped extension, which picks up on the geometry of the plot, provides a counterpoint to the orthogonal original house. The flat roof of the two-storey extension contrasts with the inward facing pitches of the original building and extends at the ridge height to subtly insert two storeys without dominating the original dwelling. The ground floor of the original house is dedicated to bedrooms, bathrooms and utility accommodation, while the new extension adds a kitchen dining room at ground floor and a living room above. Access to a new study at ‘loft’ level in the original house is given from the upper level of the two-storey entrance hall.

“The renewal of the existing house has been achieved through carefully inserting double glazing and improving the thermal performance without demolishing the original building. The addition provides a well-insulated enclosure that reduces heat loss through the original fabric by internalising it. The adaptive reuse of the existing structure is a sensitive, sustainable approach and shows how buildings of previous eras can, with good design, be enhanced and renewed rather than replaced.

“The new palette of materials is both a complement and contrast to the original brick courtyard house. The dark grey render with its ribbon windows is a contrast to the more rustic brickwork of the original house with punctured apertures. The use of timber windows to match the original house allows the extension to feel as though it is integrated into the original design in a harmonious manner.

“The delight in the house is the spaces and their relationship with the surrounding landscape. The original house is largely inward looking, to its internal courtyard. The extension reverses this and provides outward looking living accommodation over two levels. The main living space at first floor enjoys striking views across the countryside and fully exploits its position on the edge of the village.

“The careful attention to the specification and to keeping the design to budget has resulted in a house that delivers a lot for a very competitive price. The use of a ‘traditional’ contract to achieve this demonstrates that great architecture can be delivered to a tight budget, with a good client/architect team. The close collaboration and a trusting and friendly relationship between client and architect was clearly evident at the jury visit.

“The project is an excellent example of where good design adds significant value, and creates a wonderful house with relatively modest means. It is an accomplished piece of architecture and a sensitive renewal of an original building providing it with a long term sustainable future.”

Royal Papworth Hospital, by HOK International, London

The jury report said: “If a hospital is a machine for healing people, it appears all too often that hospitals seem to prioritise functional requirements of treating the body, rather than the mind and soul, in the design of their physical environments. With notable recent exceptions such as Maggie’s Centres, the design of many hospitals is often reminiscent of a spreadsheet in physical form, making them a depressing experience to work in or visit, even when in good health. Thankfully at the Royal Papworth that is demonstrably not the case.

“The circular form of the upper storeys of patient rooms, wrapped in light blue glazing, sits above a substantial plinth of light-coloured concrete which contains intensive care at first floor and meeting and administrative accommodation below. The curved form of the ‘doughnut’ plan is an unusual and distinctive presence within the Addenbrookes campus. It is a surprising form that prompted the question ‘how and why is that a good form for a hospital?’ The answer lies in the layout inside.

“The clear organisation of the building is immediately evident. The use of natural daylight to draw you into the central circular courtyard gives an instant sense of peace and clear orientation. The ambience is one of calm efficiency, just as you would hope a hospital dedicated to dealing with heart and lung ailments should be. The central reception makes it easy to orientate yourself within the hospital and seeing the inside of the doughnut from below provides a visual connection between entry sequence and subsequent movement around the building.

“Each patient has their own room, which is a segment, either on the inner or the outer ring. The geometry helps to make each room, though identical, feel specific and individual. The glazed folding walls to the internal corridor allow both a visual connection between patient and staff (with privacy through curtains) and ease of access for beds to be taken in and out for treatment. The central corridor that contains the staff facilities serves both sides simultaneously, yet the internal glazed walls mean that you can see from the inside of the doughnut, to the outside and vice versa, and see daylight at both sides. This visual connection improves the experience both for patients and staff. The corridor at the centre of the plan always curves away from you so that you don’t get a long corridor disappearing into the distance; it inherently limits its visual length. Within ICU even the side walls between the rooms are glazed, which gives a flexibility between visual transparency and privacy, useful at different times, for both staff and patients.

“The Royal Papworth Hospital is an example of how a building type, where functional requirements necessarily drive the design, can be elevated through good design to a building that lifts the spirits.”

Simple House, Cambridge, by Haysom Ward Miller, Cambridge

The jury citation read: “Simple House is an extraordinary piece of inventive design.

“The two-bedroom house is completely hidden behind a garden wall. The owner didn’t want to impose on the already settled neighbourhood and decided to opt for a discreet design and construction.

“Set in a very small plot, originally a simple garden plot, the house embraces nature in all directions. The clients’ aim was to re-instate what they took away from nature. And they have achieved just that!

“It’s an open and generous space connected to both garden areas with large windows raising up to the top of the main living area, creating a beautiful atmosphere.

“It is inventive, creative and unusual, yet absolutely in equilibrium with the surrounding houses, flooded with natural light coming from all directions including some exceptional round roof lights and high-level windows. The connection with the sky through these generous openings constantly changes the light and internal ambience and mood, generating an interesting atmosphere across all seasons.

“Natural and simple materials – unpainted exposed joists, aggregate concrete floor and birch-ply details - give the space a natural look and organic feel. Some details have been purposely left unfinished to create a sense of unsophisticated flawlessness in total balance with the natural and organic feel of this small home.

“The client wanted something different from a two-up two-down typical arrangement and, considering the small budget available, the level of design and detail are quite remarkable and results exceptional.

“Within a relatively small house built on a tight budget, on a constrained and overlooked site, the architect has created a calm, open and beautiful space in harmony with both nature and its surroundings.”

Student Services Centre, University of Cambridge, by Bennetts Associates, London

The jury said: “The Student Services Centre consolidates seven university facilities to provide a new centralised location within the city. Incorporating an Edwardian Art School, the Old Cavendish Laboratory, and a new building, the site has been optimised whilst still providing high quality landscape between the three buildings and the centre of the city. The project transforms the local street structure, connecting previously divided areas together.

“The refurbishment of the lecture theatre seamlessly blends the existing furniture and details, whilst bringing 21st century facilities to meet the needs of students today. The reuse of a number of building elements represents good conservation and sustainable design.

“The new building, whilst elevationally very structured, sits at the rear of the site and is respectful of the existing context. Internally, a four-storey atrium provides natural ventilation and daylight to office and workspaces within, linked to a circulation space that provides flexible break out spaces and informal seating. The column-free concrete structure gives a flexibility to the spaces and encourages social interaction for building users. Complex stakeholder and building user engagement has led to a collection of buildings that can provide a number of services.

“Energy performance modelling shows that the simple building fabric strategy results in a low energy building, coupled with photovoltaic panels to reduce its overall primary energy consumption. These figures meet the RIBA 2030 Climate Challenge goals, and low carbon concrete along with natural materials such as timber show the building’s embodied carbon has been considered. Utilising the Soft Landings Framework is also a robust method for achieving a low carbon building.

“The architects have navigated a complex process of briefing with numerous stakeholders, listed and existing fabric, constrained access and archaeological finds, and arrived with an exemplary addition to the city’s urban realm.”

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