Town House

Town House is Kingston University's new landmark building on Penrhyn Road campus.

It won the 2021 Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize, confirming it as Britain's best new building.

The building was also named the winner of the 2022 EU Prize for Contemporary Architecture - Mies van der Rohe Award, recognised as the highest accolade in European architecture. Town House is one of only three UK projects ever to have won the prestigious European Union prize. Its success also marks the first time a university building has won the award.

Town House was recipient of a prestigious RIBA London Region Award, a 2021 Civic Trust Award, runner up in the Guardian University Awards 2020 and a finalist in the NLA London Awards and Constructing Excellence SECBE Awards.

The project to deliver Town House began with a RIBA design competition in 2013, which was won by RIBA Gold Medal-winning Grafton Architects, who have a reputation for designing thoughtful, beautifully detailed buildings.

The architect's brief was to transform the learning experience for our students by building a contemporary library and performance space, connecting the traditionally hushed atmosphere of a library with the energy and sound of rehearsals taking place.

The design brief also included:

  • An inviting, welcoming environment for everyone
  • Encouraging collaboration across disciplines
  • Flexible technology throughout and strong green credentials
  • Cafés and a roof terrace for relaxing
  • A gateway to the University for residents and businesses
  • A vibrant new face to the University and a lasting legacy for all

Construction of the building

Construction began in April 2017 and over the next three years, staff students and locals watched the building to take shape.

The exterior is grand yet contemporary. The entire front facade is a series of concrete loggias – outdoor corridors or galleries with covered roofs and outer walls that open to the elements. Inside, polished concrete flooring contrast with wooden stairs leading to open plan mezzanines. Large windows flood the building with natural light and from the roof terrace there are stunning views over the town. 

The brief required an energy-efficient building, so concrete slabs were used to create a thermos-active system which uses building mass to passively heat and cool the interior. Solar panels lurk discreetly on the roof providing electricity. The building is very air-tight with high levels of insulation and built-in heat recovery systems.

Town House comes to life

Walk through the revolving doors and you are immediately invited in. The atmosphere is inspiring, yet informal. This is a place that people meet, gather and socialise as well as learn. There's a sense of light and space, with high soffits, wide open staircases and walkways creating a feeling of being able to see the entire building at once.

Fundamentally this is a university library, complete with intimate corners and bookable study spaces. But it is also a building for the whole community to use. There are cafés, an outdoor reading room and a roof terrace.

Lectures, talks and performances take place in the amphitheatre-style courtyard, but when not in use the sliding walls move away. The bleacher-style seating behind encourages people to sit, linger and just enjoy the space.

Explore Town House

Explore the Town House building at Penrhyn Road via a virtual video tour created in conjunction with Open House London as part of their 2020 festival of London's architecture.

Town House from the air

Contemporary art at Town House

The building as an art gallery and performance venue is part of what makes Town House a gateway to the University for local residents, the wider public and businesses. It's a vibrant new face to the University and a lasting legacy for the city and the students of the future.

A series of major art installations by leading contemporary practitioners associated with Kingston University, is being curated by Stanley Picker Gallery. The exhibitions will feature work by Kingston School of Art Professors Ben Kelly, Mike Nelson and Elizabeth Price, and designer Yemi Awosile, in and around Town House.

Contemporary art at Town House
The Asset Strippers (Selected works) 2019, Mike Nelson. As originally conceived and commissioned for the Tate Britain. Photograph: Ellie Laycock

Phoenix Rising

Phoenix Rising is a specially-created film featuring performing arts and fashion students from Kingston School of Art, highlighting the architecture of Town House.

The film (created and directed by Jason Piper) invites the viewer to follow dancers and performance artists as they move through the vast building, which reverberates to the sound of opera and violin. The result is an extraordinary celebration of architecture through performance.