The RIBA Stirling Prize: Winner Announced

by Katie Treggiden in News & Noteworthy

The winner of this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize – the Sainsbury Laboratory – came as a surprise to everybody.

Architecture critic Tom Dyckoff’s money was on the Lyric Theatre in Belfast, by O’Donnell and Tuomey. William Hill’s money was (literally) on Wakefield’s Hepworth Gallery, by David Chipperfield. And according to the Guardian’s poll, the public were behind the Olympic Stadium by Populous. But in the end, none of these was the winner. OMA’s two shortlisted buildings, Maggie’s Gartnavel and the City’s New Court, didn’t claim the prize either. The ultimate victor was… a science lab. Who’d have thought it?

The Sainsbury Laboratory, a major new plant-science research centre in Cambridge, was designed by architects Stanton Williams, who have never even been shortlisted before.

‘The Sainsbury Laboratory is a timeless piece of architecture, sitting within a highly sensitive site, one overlooking the woods where Darwin walked with his tutor and mentor Henslow, discussing the origin of species,’ said the judges.

‘In this project Stanton Williams and their landscape architects have created a new landscape, a courtyard which flows out into the botanical gardens. The project is both highly particular and specialised, and at the same time a universal building type, taken to an extraordinary degree of sophistication and beauty.

 

‘The Sainsbury Laboratory is an exceptional building that achieves at many levels – in blending a world-class science facility with a public social space in a highly energy efficient building.’

‘The project seems simple, which hides the fact that it was a hugely difficult building to achieve. It needed to provide flexibility for future changes in scientific practice, and has achieved this brilliantly. The building had to balance openness with stringent requirements for security, which was done by placing the laboratories on the first floor, together with their own meeting places. Public access is on the ground floor in the form of a lecture theatre and meeting rooms, and, importantly, there is a charming café, open to the public, which sits between the gardens and the lab’s private courtyard, and from which one can watch the goings-on within. This forms the buffer between the private and public zones.

‘The building uses fine materials expertly detailed, and beautifully integrates works of art commissioned from Susanna Herron, William Pye and Norman Ackroyd.’

RIBA President Angela Brady added, ‘The Sainsbury Laboratory is an exceptional building that achieves at many levels – in blending a world-class science facility with a public social space in a highly energy efficient building.’

The judges were Sir Nicholas Grimshaw, architect and former president of the Royal Academy; Sir Mark Jones, Master of St Cross College Oxford and former Director of the Victoria and Albert Museum; Joanna van Heyningen, architect, van Heyningen & Haward Architects, UK; Hilde Daem, architect, Robbrecht + Daem, Belgium and Naomi Cleaver, designer, writer and broadcaster.


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