The 2023 RIBA Stirling Prize goes to the John Morden Centre designed by Mæ
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The 2023 RIBA Stirling Prize goes to the John Morden Centre designed by Mæ

A daycare facility for Blackheath residents

The 2023 RIBA Stirling Prize goes to the John Morden Centre designed by Mæ
By Editorial Staff -

The John Morden Centre, designed by , has won this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize. Introduced in 1996, this annual award for the best new architecture in the United Kingdom went to the daycare center in the Blackheath area of London for architecture that acts strengthens relationships between residents and different generations, while supporting the wellbeing of the community and promoting a high quality of life. In other words, the center provides both social and health functions in the one place.

“The John Morden Centre is a place of joy and inspiration,” said prize jury chair Ellen van Loon. “It sensitively and seamlessly integrates medical facilities and social spaces, delivering a bold and hopeful model for the design of health and care centers for the elderly. Creating an environment that lifts the spirits and fosters community is evident at every turn and in every detail. This building provides comfort and warmth, with thoughtful features designed to prevent isolation. It illustrates how buildings can themselves be therapeutic – supporting care and instilling a sense of belonging”.

From the strictly architectural point of view, the importance of the John Morden Centre stems in part from the way it has given a new value and dignity to the nearby existing buildings, that is, a nursing home and a chapel. The building is organized into a series of red brick pavilions that house care and social spaces, united by a central green “cloister”. The identity of the center, including visually, is then accentuated by the zinc-clad roofs and high chimneys, which reflect and interact with those of the neighboring 17th century buildings.


A journey though the center

John Morden Center, Mæ ©Jim Stephenson, courtesy of RIBA

The entrance to the center comprises a large, bright lobby with a reception area. This leads to numerous other rooms – not only treatment rooms, but also an art gallery, a hairdresser, a beauty salon, a café, and a theater that can host a range of events. Timber finishes are a feature throughout. The interiors were designed specifically to make each space as accessible as possible for the movement and orientation of users, including those with dementia. Integration with the surrounding environment was achieved by employing biophilic design principles, with the result that it’s always possible to remain in contact with the outside while indoors.

The inviting central cloister is a hybrid space that’s usable in both winter and, with its excellent shading, summer.

As regards sustainability – a fundamental aspect of all Mæ’s designs – the building harnesses low-carbon emission techniques. The use of materials such as timber also played a role in reducing carbon emissions during construction, while a lime-based mortar will make it possible to reuse the brick cladding in the future. Passive ventilation minimizes the energy needed to heat and cool the center.

“The John Morden Centre has been a really fulfilling project to work on,” said Mæ director Alex Ely. “At a time when adult social care is in a perilous state, this award demonstrates that there is hope for the sector, with the project also offering a model for others working within health and care, inspiring them to create environments that positively impact people’s mental and physical health”.


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Location: London, UK
Architect: Mæ
Internal gross area: 911 m2
Contractor: Clive Graham Associates 
Interior Design: Scott-Masson Interior Design 
Structural Engineer: Michael Hadi Associates 
Environmental / M&E Engineer: BOOM 
Quantity Surveyor / Cost Consultant: Calford Seaden 
Project Management: Calford Seaden 
Landscape Architect: J&L Gibbons 
Planning Consultant: Stanway Little 

Photography by Jim Stephenson, courtesy of RIBA

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