The Bartlett School of Architecture


Cork House shortlisted for Stirling Prize

24 July 2019

Cork House, designed by Bartlett architects, has been shortlisted for the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize.

Cork House exterior

Located in Eton, Berkshire, Cork House was designed by Bartlett School of Architecture alumnus Matthew Barnett Howland with Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton, The Bartlett’s Director of Technology and Lecturer in Environmental Design.

Cork House is the first building in the UK to be made of a simple new form of solid cork and timber construction. Its walls and roof are made of giant dry jointed interlocking blocks of expanded cork, a pure plant-based material with a unique ecological origin.

The house has exceptionally low whole-life carbon and is carbon negative at completion due to the atmospheric carbon stored in its plant-based components. It is easy to assemble by hand, with no glue or mortar used. Its construction enables easy disassembly at end of building life to recover its 1,268 cork blocks for reuse, recycling or simply to be returned to the biosphere. The expanded cork billets from which the blocks are formed are made in Portugal using by-products and waste from cork forestry and the cork stopper industry. 

The construction of Cork House was made possible through a research project which developed the cork construction system, an evolved version of which was used in the house.

Living space within Cork House

The research was part funded by Innovate UK and the EPSRC, and UCL partnered with MPH Architects, the University of Bath, Amorim UK and Ty-Mawr on the project, with contributions from consultants Arup and BRE. All of the cork blocks for the research project were made at The Bartlett Manufacture and Design Exchange (B-made), using a robotic milling method developed specifically for the project.
As an architect and academic, it's rare to have the opportunity to contribute to a project that asks fundamental questions about how we build today, moves on to researching and developing a new form of construction and then creates the first building of its type, using an evolved version of this new system.

Oliver Wilton, Director of Technology and Lecturer in Environmental Design at The Bartlett

The RIBA Stirling Prize winner will be announced in the autumn, when the Cork House will also feature in the fifth series of Channel 4’s Grand Designs: House of the Year TV series, as it has been longlisted for the RIBA House of the Year award.

Photography by Ricky Jones

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