It is the first time the Stirling Prize has been awarded to a housing development
A contemporary housing estate for a "post-Thatcherite Britain" has won the 2008 Stirling Prize for architecture.
Accordia, in Cambridge, was one of six developments shortlisted for the Royal Institute of Architecture (RIBA) prize, and the first housing estate to win it.
Its architects received the £20,000 prize at a ceremony in Liverpool.
The judges said Accordia, on a brownfield site near the city centre, won because it is "not afraid of communal aspirations and aesthetics".
It also impressed the panel with good size, well-proportioned rooms in its houses and flats.
"This is high-density housing at its very best," the judges said.
The key to the scheme, they said, was the "relationships" between the three firms of architects that designed it, with those who live on it, and between private and public spaces within it.
"[It provides] a new model for outside-inside life with interior roofspaces, internal courtyards and large semi-public community gardens," they added.
The five other contenders
Amsterdam Bijlmer Arena Station
Manchester Civil Justice Centre
Nord Park Railway, Innsbruck
Royal Festival Hall, London
Westminster Academy, London
It was particularly noted for offering children a safe place to play outside and a place where cars are "tamed not banned".
Sunand Prasad, president of Riba, who announced the winner, said the development has done the "most for British architecture in the past year".
"It is architecture which gives hope for us all for the future," added the judges.
Its architects, Alison Brooks, Richard Lavington and Keith Bradley, said the fact it is the first housing estate to win the prize is significant.
"I think that represents the fact that there are very few high quality housing schemes," said Ms Brooks.
The estate is made up of a combination of council homes, homes for private sale and those available under shared-equity schemes.
Mr Bradley said: "A lot of mistakes were made in the past - not all the fault of architects, but architects were party to that: put all the same sort of people in the same place. It never works."