The Accordia housing project in Cambridge, England, was the surprise winner of the international RIBA Stirling Prize for architecture announced tonight.

The low-rise houses, which made headlines when they faced protests from local residents, beat other buildings such as Zaha Hadid’s acclaimed ski-lift stations near Innsbruck in Austria and the new Westminster Academy in London.

“This is architecture that treats adults as grown-ups and children as people,” the judges said of the Accordia project, giving it the 20,000 pound ($34,080) prize, at a ceremony in Liverpool.

Accordia involved three firms of architects and designers: Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, Alison Brooks Architects and Macreanor Lavington.

Mark Beech