RIBA Stirling Prize Shortlist Announced

Sainsbury Laboratory, Stanton Williams: Photograph Hutton + Crow

The end of July is when architecture geeks get  excited and critics get hot under the collar. Why? It’s when the RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist is announced.

Sadly, I hadn’t started this column at the time, so I thought I’d sneak it in now, for anybody who missed it.

The Stirling Prize was founded in 1996 with the aim of being a more open and democratic version of its predecessor, the Building of the Year Award. It “would be for architecture what the Booker Prize was for literature.” Every year RIBA awards £20,000 and a lot of prestige to the architects behind the building that has made the greatest contribution to architecture’s evolution over the year. Projects must be built or designed in Britain and this year’s shortlist is unusual in that all the buildings are actually in the UK.

Unsurprisingly, there’s an Olympic building on there – the Stadium. After Hopkins Architects‘ Velodrome narrowly missed out last year, and in the absence of Zaha Hadid’s Acquatics Centre (rumoured to be being held back for entry next year, when its temporary seating wings have been removed), it would have seemed odd not to include something Olympian, despite the stadium not being the obvious contender.

2012 Olympic Stadium: Photograph RIBA

2012 Olympic Stadium Populous: Photograph RIBA

I was pleased to see both the Hepworth Wakefield (David Chipperfield Architects) and Maggie’s Gartnavel (OMA) on the list, too. I was very excited when the former was built and can’t wait to visit, as much for the building as for its contents – and I’m a big Barbara Hepworth fan. According to William Hill, it’s the favourite to win.

I’m also a huge fan of the charity Maggie’s and the way it uses architecture and design to improve the wellbeing of people with cancer (so much so that I now write for them part-time, too). It’s a real endorsement to see another centre shortlisted after Maggie’s London, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour and Partners, won in 2009.

The Hepworth Wakefield: Photograph Iwan Baan

Maggies Gartnavel OMA: Photograph Charlie Koolhaas

Dublin-based practice O’Donnell + Tuomey is shortlisted for the second year running and fourth time overall, this year for the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. It’s been praised for “responding superbly to considerable challenges, including the building’s small, awkwardly irregular and steeply sloping site.”

Lyric Theatre O'donnell + Tuomey: Photographer Dennis Gilbert

OMA has two buildings on the shortlist. As well as Maggie’s Glasgow, its second building, New Court, in the City, is part office and part museum, and a replacement for Rothschild’s Bank’s previous 1960s building. It opens up views of a Wren church by creating a pathway towards it and sight lines from the pavement.

New Court, Rothschild Bank, OMA: Photograph Philippe Ruault

New Court, Rothschild Bank, OMA: Photograph Charlie Koolhaas

Finally, Stanton Williams has been shortlisted for the first time, for The Sainsbury Laboratory in Cambridge. It’s nice to see such a highly functional building included; and the design cleverly mixes the functional with the public – a botanic garden café.

Sainsbury Laboratory, Stanton Williams: Photograph Hutton + Crow

Sainsbury Laboratory, Stanton Williams: Photograph Hutton + Crow

I’ll leave the last word to RIBA president Angela Brady:

“The annual RIBA Stirling Prize celebrates architectural excellence and this year we have an incredibly strong list of contenders. All the shortlisted buildings demonstrate the essence of great architecture. They are human-scale buildings, places to inspire, entertain, educate and comfort their visitors and passers-by.

“Every building not only works beautifully from within but has a superb relationship with its surroundings, with a strong interplay between the two. They don’t shout ‘look at me’ and even the tallest building, New Court in the City of London, has created good views for passing pedestrians, meeting the challenge of delivering good urban design in an historic area.

“The 2012 RIBA Stirling Prize judges have a difficult job to select a winner from this pool of great talent. I can’t wait to see which project they choose.”

Maggies Gartnavel OMA: Photograph Philippe Ruault

One comment

  1. On Angela Mumford said:

    although the entries are mostly classic design and conform to purpose, there is nothing outstandingly original… steel, glass and concrete are so 70′s. However, the Olympic Stadium and the Equatic Centre have made an attempt to break the mold, and deserve to win.

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