Merano Residences by St James, part of The Berkeley Group, is the only major residential developer to be announced as one of the 2019 RIBA National Award winners, which recognises the best architecture completed in the past 12 months. The scheme was selected from the RIBA London award winners which were determined earlier this year.
Merano was selected thanks to its design, delivering St James's vision that judges described as a 'mixed-use development of the highest architectural quality'. With its clear attention to detail and honest approach to the structure and materials, the award celebrates its distinct presence along the Albert Embankment - offering maximum views and daylight, whilst also responding to a variety of potential challenges, from its features to mitigate rail noise to the clever use of limited space.
This is St James's second RIBA National Award with world-renowned architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, following the success of its Riverlight scheme last year. Merano Residences showcases a highly contemporary design comprising three elegantly expressed vertical buildings, with an exposed concrete frame and steel bracing to provide wind stability on the east and west facades. Glazed stairs and lifts to the east of the building maximise the outstanding views across South London, whilst bay widths are consistent with the frontages of the neighbouring Rose Pub, creating a rhythm of buildings to hold the street line and mitigate noise from the nearby high-level railway.
Merano Residences is a high-quality, mixed-use development located on the Albert Embankment of London's River Thames, opposite the Tate Britain and within view of the Houses of Parliament. The scheme's different uses of space are arranged vertically within the building, with commercial office spaces occupying the three floors above the café and public piazza, while 46 apartments, a mix of private and affordable, take up the upper levels. The site lies within the Nine Elms Development zone and just outside the local conservation area.
Off-site construction was utilised throughout the design and construction, from balconies and bathroom pods, to the primary pre-cast structural frame system. On the east elevation, bedrooms are protected from the sun and the noise of the adjacent railway by a series of fully glazed winter gardens which provide a quieter external space for residents.
Sean Ellis, Chairman of St James, said: "This award, the second in two years for Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners on a St James project, is testament to their rigorous attention to detail and architectural quality. The challenges of working with a relatively small and constrained site - the size of just three tennis courts, situated between the mainline railway viaduct and a busy arterial route - were overcome with a vision that created a new, covered public piazza, now home to a café, a future commercial space and civic artwork.
"We are extremely proud that Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners in conjunction with St James have been recognised for the design-led approach used at The Merano. The building was hugely successful with the apartments sold off-plan, exceeding our expectations."
The new, covered public piazza was designed to create a strong and active visual presence along the riverfront whilst acting as a gateway to east Lambeth. In terms of height, scale and urban grain, the inclusive design also provides a positive contribution to the neighbourhood, the streetscape and skyline of the Albert Embankment.
Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners' Senior Design Partner, Graham Stirk: "Merano was conceived as a series of individual apartment buildings of varying heights that are grouped together and clearly expressed within a single structure. The result is not a monolithic building but a tower which is rich and fragmentary on the skyline. This grand stepping sequence allows the building to mediate in scale from the conservation area in the south and the taller buildings to the north."
Architects: Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners and EPR Architects
Structure: Ramboll UK Ltd
Services: Hoare Lea