UCL News


Cork House shortlisted for RIBA Stirling Prize

22 July 2019

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

Cork House

The prize is awarded annually to the best building in the UK, and follows a RIBA National Award and the RIBA South Sustainability Award for Cork House.

Located in Eton, Berkshire, the house was designed by UCL 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.

Oliver Wilton commented: “As an architect and academic, it is 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.”

Cork House interior

The house has exceptionally low whole-life carbon, partly because of 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 biodegrading. 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.

The research was part funded by Innovate UK and the EPSRC. 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.

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.



  • Cork House. Credit: Ricky Jones

Media contact

Kate Corry

Tel: +44 (0)20 3108 6995

Email: k.corry [at] ucl.ac.uk