2019 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist announced
This week six projects were shortlisted for the latest edition of the prestigious RIBA Stirling prize which seeks out the project which has done the most to push British architecture on over the year.
Each project will be judged on criteria including the overall design vision; the originality of the concept; the degree to which it stimulates the imagination; how well it engages and delights occupants and visitors; accessibility and sustainability; how fit the building is for purpose; and the level of client satisfaction.
The shortlisted projects are as follows, in no particular order:
London Bridge Station
London Bridge Station is a key piece of national infrastructure which connects the capital to both Norfolk and the South East coast. With that level of national importance, any redesign would need a special level of attention and innovative thought. The recently completed works meet those expectations.
The concourse has been opened up and modern interventions have been kept to a minimum, allowing the new station layout to feel modern and efficient without sacrificing the character of the original. The station’s relationship with the surrounding area has also been improved considerably and it no longer constitutes a barrier between north and south Bermondsey.
Best of all, the redevelopment was delivered intelligently in phases which ensured the station would not have to shut down - a situation which would have had a major effect on the London economy.
The Macallan Distillery
Located on the island of Moray, the new Macallan building is an impressive piece of architecture in its own right as well as being ideal for housing the distillery and visitor centre. The undulating rooftop design echoes the surrounding landscape and, despite being a thoroughly modern construction, feels like it belongs in its surroundings - no mean feat.
The internal structure is a wonder in itself. Arched timber roofs frame a processional walkway girded by fully glazed elevations and lit atmospherically to provide a sense of drama as visitors proceed through the building. A mixture of photographs and exhibits showcasing the distillery and striking views over the River Spey combine to make this a special experience.
Goldsmith Street is a new development of 100 homes built by Norwich City Council as part of a new wave of true social housing. Each home is built to stringent Passivhaus environmental standards which will reduce annual energy bills to £150 - but the design is so ingenious that this has not become a restriction. The architects, Mikhail Riches and Cathy Hawley, designed seven tight terraced blocks in four rows where daylight is allowed into each home through an intricate asymmetric roof design and overlooking is minimised through clever window design.
Parking has been pushed to the edges of the development and the design has ensured a thoughtful gradation from public to private space at the front of the houses, thereby providing a level of privacy without sacrificing the community feel. The back streets of the houses are fully landscaped and contain gardens for residents, with the curved paths through them emulating the curvilinear corner houses on the end of each street which soften the street scene.
In an era where the UK is struggling to house its population in an affordable and fair way, it is likely that a new wave of Council-built social housing is around the corner. Schemes like Goldsmith Street are a shining example of what can be achieved by the public sector with the right motivation and funding. Hopefully we will see this scheme replicated across the country.
Nevill Holt Opera
Nevill Holt Opera surely holds the title of the UK’s most intimate opera house. Contained within the stable yard of an old country manor, the opera house seating is cut into the stone floor and the circle above is formed sensitively out of a dark timber, giving the whole place a warm and welcoming feeling. Holding centre stage is the stage itself where the performers are so close that they could be part of the audience.
At first sight the whole space seems to fit perfectly, effortlessly inside the building - but that is the result of a smart, sensitive design from Witherford Watson Mann which makes the most of an already beautiful space. Eaves of sand-blasted larch and walls of local Clipsham stone anchor the project in its specific place and, simultaneously, superb craftsmanship manages to elevate it beyond its modest location.
The Weston, Yorkshire Sculpture Park
Located in the grounds of Bretton Hall, the Yorkshire Sculpture Park has developed a range of indoor exhibitions spaces alongside outdoor sculptures which punctuate the landscape. The Weston is the newest of these spaces and it is an architectural treat which manages to combine the indoors with the landscape in a fascinating way.
It achieves this effect by appearing to rise directly from the landscape it is built on - in this case a 50 metre long wall pushes its way out of a former millstone quarry, producing a geological strata effect which instantly identifies the man-made with the natural. To the west, where it provides panoramic views over a park, The Weston transforms into a glazed, timber-framed pavilion.
By building not just on the land, but of the land, The Weston becomes something more than a regular exhibition space.
The closer we get to environmental catastrophe the clearer it becomes that the construction industry needs to modernise. The way we build now produces a massive amount of emissions and new materials and techniques are needed; this new project from MPH Architects and a collaborative team may point the way.
Cork House is, unsurprisingly, made entirely of cork. The structural walls and the roof are entirely cork and all the components can be fully recycled as well as emitting zero carbon. But the use of cork is not just for environmental reasons, it is also attractive in its own right. The flooring reflects light and absorbs sound, the walls and windows keep the dwelling cool in the summer and warm in the winter.
While we are not going to see cork take over from concrete anytime soon, it is worth remembering that even the most ubiquitous materials must be tested somewhere. Cork House shows us a way to not only coexist with nature more effectively, but how we can actually integrate our lives with the natural world again in a way which doesn’t compromise on modern living standards.
The winner will be announced in a ceremony on Tuesday 8th October.
All images courtesy of RIBA