Kingston University London’s student Town House has been named the UK’s best new building, winning the prestigious Riba Stirling Prize 2021.

The “warm, dynamic” building, which contains a dance studio and library, was designed by Grafton Architects to encourage collective learning.

Judges of the annual architecture award described it as “a theatre for life” and “a warehouse of ideas”.

It topped a shortlist of six buildings, which included housing for key workers.

Architect Lord Foster, chair of this year’s prize jury, said Town House “seamlessly brings together student and town communities, creating a progressive new model for higher education, well deserving of international acclaim and attention”.

He said it was a “highly original work of architecture” where “quiet reading, loud performance, research and learning can delightfully coexist”.

“That is no mean feat,” he added. “Education must be our future – and this must be the future of education.”

The six-storey building in Kingston upon Thames, south-west London, is designed to welcome students, locals and visitors with few barriers. It contains a public forum, a library and a dance studio and theatre, as well as open terraces and roof gardens.

In a statement, Grafton Architects said they were “delighted” that their “spatial open matrix” had been selected, noting how they had always “imagined a place where students would feel at home”.

“This building is about people, interaction, light, possibilities,” they explained.

“It is about connecting to the community, the passer-by, an invitation to cross the threshold; a three-dimensional framework with layers of silence and layers of sound.”