Unique Norfolk tower wins national architecture award

water tower

Misia Godebska and Dennis Pedersen at the water tower they have turned into a home at Castle Acre, near Swaffham - Credit: Chris Bishop

An unusual building in the middle of the Norfolk countryside has won a prestigious national award for architectural design.

The Water Tower by Tonkin Liu, near Castle Acre, Swaffham, has been named by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) as the winner of the Stephen Lawrence Prize 2021.

The building was originally an industrial steel water tower but it has since been reinvented to create a unique family home.

RIBA Awards Stephen Lawrence prize awarded to the Water Tower in Castle Acre near Swaffham

The Water Tower impressed the RIBA judges, winning the Stephen Lawrence Award 2021 - Credit: Dennis Pedersen

Dennis Pedersen and Misia Godebska bought the property six years ago for £25,000 and thought they could do something "pretty cool with it."

They hired architects Mike Tonkin and Anna Liu to restore the building,  who went on to create an open-plan living space that still retained much of the original structure.

water tower

The water tower stands on the outskirts of Castle Acre - Credit: Chris Bishop

The RIBA described the Water Tower as "an ingenious eco-build that accommodates its natural setting, utilising its roof terrace and room placements to overlook and appreciate the surrounding Norfolk countryside."

Marco Goldschmeid, a former president of the RIBA and one of the judges at this year's prize said: "The Water Tower demonstrates how buildings can be saved and enlivened through expert retrofitting, high-quality craftsmanship and faultless attention to detail.

"The jury unanimously commend Tonkin Liu – the worthy recipient of the 22nd Stephen Lawrence Prize – and their ambitious client for their creativity and dedication.

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"With the positive support and involvement of the local community they have breathed new life into this historic rural structure to create a truly unique family home."

Mr Pedersen, who is a still life photographer, did much of the work himself, alongside local tradespeople. The project eventually cost upwards of £350,000 to complete. 

water tower

Storm clouds gather in the distance from the water tower at Castle Acre - Credit: Chris Bishop

While the architecture is impressive, views from the property are equally as special, offering stunning panoramas of the Norfolk countryside.

This is not the first time in recent years that architecture in Norfolk has been recognised.

Goldsmith Street in Norwich. Pic: Tim Crocker.

Goldsmith Street in Norwich. Pic: Tim Crocker. - Credit: Tim Crocker

In 2019, Goldsmith Street in Norwich won the RIBA Stirling Prize, given to the nation's best new building. 

The £17m Norwich City Council project was described as "a modest masterpiece" and "an outstanding contribution to British architecture" by judges at the London ceremony.