Team led by Somerset pracitce Studio Saar wins £10,000 prize for department store re-use idea

Apartment Store

The winning team’s proposal

A team led by Somerset-based practice Studio Saar has been named as the winner of this year’s Davidson Prize, which looked for inventive solutions to the housing crisis.

The team has bagged £10,000 for its winning entry, called Apartment Store, which explored how vacant retail space could be reinvented as new homes and circular economy hubs.

The proposal, which also landed the award’s People’s Choice Prize in a first for the design ideas competition, focused on the transformation of a redundant Art Deco department store in Taunton, Somerset.

The concept would see the upper floors converted into housing with a collective food growing area on the roof and community spaces on the ground floor including a tools library, education space and a ‘commoning room’ for local decision making.

Also on the team was developer Stories, placemaking consultant BAS, landscape architect Landstory and filmmaker Megaphone Creative.

Amandeep Singh Kalra, Chair of the 2024 Davidson Prize jury, said: “Although choosing the winner was tough, we felt that Apartment Store would not only provide new, sustainable homes but would also address the challenge that high streets throughout the UK are facing, turning them back intro thriving hubs for the community. 

“The jury could all see themselves living there – and clearly those voting in the People’s Choice agreed with us!”

Davidson Prize director Marie Chamillard added: “The innovation in the design thinking from the participants of The Davidson Prize never ceases to surprise me. 

“Despite the seriousness of the challenges we face with both the climate and housing crisis, I was particularly struck by the creativity, ingenuity and sense of optimism in the submissions this year. I think this year’s judging sessions have been the most fun we have ever had.”

The two other finalists in line for the prize were Robin Hood Co-Living Community,a masterplanning proposal to transform an ex-airport near Sheffield into a new neighbourhood and productive landscape from Alma-nac, Constant SD, Eric Guibert and Mark Blackwell, and Harlow Re-New Town,a model for reimagining and transforming the UK’s post-war housing stock rather than demolishing it fromOEB Architects, YAA Projects, Nick Bano, Dominic Humphrey and Stuti Bansal.