IMPORTANT Website terms of use and cookie statement

UK’s best new building - John Morden Centre wins RIBA Stirling Prize 2023

RIBA has named the John Morden Centre - a retirement day centre in London - by Mæ as the winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize 2023, sponsored by Autodesk.

20 October 2023

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has named the John Morden Centre - a retirement day centre in London - by as the winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize 2023, sponsored by Autodesk. Presented since 1996, the prestigious prize is awarded to the UK’s best new building.  

The John Morden Centre provides day care for residents of Morden College, a retirement community, in Blackheath. The new centre complements existing buildings on the Grade I-listed college grounds, including an almshouse and chapel, both attributed to St Paul's Cathedral architect Sir Christopher Wren. 

The building is arranged as a series of red brick ‘pavilions’ housing care and social spaces, stitched together by a central timber ‘cloister’. A striking, zinc-clad roof and high chimneys echo those of its 17th century neighbours.  

John Morden Centre © Jim Stephenson

A light and airy reception hall is the starting point for a journey through the new building which follows a meandering walkway and terminates in a large theatre hall – part of an existing structure that has been seamlessly upgraded and integrated. A generous overhanging roof, along the exterior of the cloister, provides shade and shelter all year-round.

The centre carefully integrates medical facilities with a range of warm and natural feeling recreational spaces to encourage connections and counter isolation, including an art room, hair and nail salon and café. The theatre provides a backdrop for larger scale events - from parties to tribute performances.

Design choices throughout the building sensitively anticipate the varied needs, abilities and disabilities of users. Features, such as level thresholds, concealed wooden handrails and built-in seating along walkways, offer opportunities for respite while enabling active participation in the community life of the centre. High-contrast patterns on the edges of floors provide dementia-friendly wayfinding, helping residents to navigate between spaces.

John Morden Centre © Jim Stephenson

Employing principles of ‘biophilic design’, the centre is carefully embedded within the surrounding natural environment. The linear path of the cloister adjusts as it meanders between the existing mature landscape, including a large cedar tree - the focal point of the garden. There are plenty of places to rest, inside and out, and enjoy the natural, changing light and views.

The building uses simple and effective low carbon techniques. The use of materials, such as cross-laminated timber to form the structure, has reduced embodied carbon in the construction process, while lime-based mortar will enable future reuse of the brick cladding. Passive ventilation, utilising the buildings chimneys, minimises the operational energy needed to heat and cool the centre.

Speaking on behalf of the RIBA Stirling Prize jury, Ellen van Loon, said:

“The John Morden Centre is a place of joy and inspiration. It sensitively and seamlessly integrates medical facilities and social spaces, delivering a bold and hopeful model for the design of health and care centres 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. Great architecture orients people so they can thrive, and this building is exemplary at achieving exactly that.”

Founding Director of Mæ, Alex Ely said:

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

Chief Executive of Morden College, David Rutherford-Jones, said:

"We are absolutely thrilled to have won the RIBA Stirling Prize 2023. Our mission is to give the very best possible life to the older people we provide homes, love, support and care for. The John Morden Centre, a beautiful, tactile space that has true purpose, sits at the heart of that effort – a true hub of life. Thank you, Mæ. Thank you, RIBA.”

RIBA President Muyiwa Oki, said:

“Loneliness and isolation are critical issues, particularly for older people. The John Morden Centre’s elegance and efficacy sets a high standard for spaces that support healthier, happier and more independent lives. It illustrates the positive potential of architecture to strengthen vibrant and active communities.

This is a skilfully designed package that minimises the building’s impact on our planet’s delicate ecology, while also harnessing the therapeutic value of the surrounding nature. It stands as a testament to the vision and ambition of Morden College, Mæ’s creativity – and the exemplary collaboration between them.”

John Morden Centre © Jim Stephenson

The RIBA Stirling Prize 2023 jury was chaired by Ellen van Loon, Partner at OMA, with: Niall McLaughlin, Founder and Principal at Niall McLaughlin Architects and winner of the 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize; Armstrong Yakubu, Senior Partner at Foster + Partners; Mona Chalabi, journalist and writer; and Marek Suchocki, Head of Industry Associations Strategy at Autodesk, sponsor of the 2023 RIBA Stirling Prize. Rachael Owens, Head of Sustainability at Buckley Gray Yeoman, was the jury’s Sustainability Expert.

Also announced as winners:

Houlton School in Warwickshire by van Heyningen & Haward Architects' (vHH) won the inaugural RIBA Reinvention Award 2023

Lighthouse Children’s Home in London by Conrad Koslowsky Architects won the Stephen Lawrence Prize 2023

A House for Artists in London by Apparata Architects won the Neave Brown Award for Housing 2023

Onion Collective won the Client of the Year 2023 award for East Quay in Somerset by Invisible Studio and Ellis Williams Architects

The 2023 RIBA Stirling Prize is supported by Autodesk.

Amy Bunszel, Executive Vice President of Architecture, Engineering and Construction Design Solutions at Autodesk, sponsors of the 2023 RIBA Stirling Prize, said:

“We’ve been delighted to support this year’s Stirling Prize - the preeminent award for architecture in the UK. It’s been a pleasure to be associated with the immense talent that this year’s Prize has showcased, culminating with this well-deserved winner.”

Notes to editors:

  1. Media contact:
  2. Images can be downloaded here
  3. First awarded in 1996, the RIBA Stirling Prize is the UK’s most prestigious architecture award. Given to the architect of the building thought to be the most significant of the year for the evolution of architecture and the built environment, the RIBA Stirling Prize is judged on a range of criteria including design vision, innovation and originality, capacity to stimulate engage and delight occupants and visitors, accessibility and sustainability, how fit the building is for its purpose and the level of client satisfaction.
  4. The shortlist for the RIBA Stirling Prize 2023 was:
  1. Previous winners of the RIBA Stirling Prize include: The New Library, Magdalene College in Cambridge by Níall McLaughlin Architects (2022); Kingston University London - Town House by Grafton Architects (2021); Goldsmith Street by Mikhail Riches (2019); Bloomberg by Foster + Partners (2018); Hastings Pier by dRMM (2017); Newport Street Gallery by Caruso St John (2016); Burntwood School, London by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) (2015); Liverpool Everyman Theatre by Haworth Tompkins (2014); Astley Castle by Witherford Watson Mann (2013).
  2. Mæ was previously shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2022 for Sands End Arts and Community Centre in Fulham, London.
  3. The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a global professional membership body that serves its members and society in order to deliver better buildings and places, stronger communities and a sustainable environment. Follow @RIBA on Twitter for regular updates.
  4. The 2023 RIBA Stirling Prize is supported by our headline sponsor Autodesk. Autodesk is changing how the world is designed and made. Its technology spans architecture, engineering, construction, product design, manufacturing, media and entertainment, empowering innovators everywhere to solve challenges big and small. From greener buildings to smarter products to mesmerising blockbusters, Autodesk software helps customers to design and make a better world for all. Visit

Latest updates

keyboard_arrow_up To top