One of the most hotly anticipated events in the architectural calendar took place last week with the 2017 release of the Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize shortlist. Seeking to find the UK’s best new building each year, the 2017 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist contains six new structures and this year there is a distinct focus on visitor attractions and community projects. Moving away from residential designs, these projects largely provide new spaces for visitors both from and to UK to explore and give something back to their local communities. The LuxPad takes a look at the 2017 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist…
The British Museum World Conservation & Exhibitions Centre, London WC1
Positioned to the north-west corner of the iconic British Museum site in Bloomsbury, the new WCEC building links five vertical pavilions (of which one is subterranean), a new exhibition gallery, laboratories, conservation studios and a host of facilities to support the museum’s logistical requirements. The result of an extremely complex brief due to spatial challenges, technical requirements and engineering technologies, the project was chosen for the 2017 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist because of the elegant and simple ways these challenges were met by architects Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.
Amongst the many benefits the new design has brought to the historic museum is the exhibition space which allows for objects of size and height not previously possible elsewhere in the museum. Exhibition pieces can now be delivered at street level before being taken to the lower levels via a platform lift which sinks into the ground without disturbing the landscape. A strong contrast to the rest of the museum’s buildings, the new extension offers striking contemporary design through glass lifts, bridges and glazed lobbies, providing a clean and enjoyable experience.
The jury have said they admired the skill in which the architects dealt with the brief whilst maintaining a rigorous and disciplined plan which overcame all planning and heritage concerns in relation to building new spaces both above and below ground.
Command of the Oceans, Chatham, Kent
Designed by Baynes and Mitchell Architects, Chatham Historic Dockyard commissioned the firm to create a striking visitors’ centre and the project has been hailed as a champion for progressive conservation, inventive re-use and adaption of existing fabric. With a striking new visitor entrance, the building is clad in black zinc which knits together the historic white framed structures on each side and the height has also been altered. The decision to dramatically contrast the new structure with the existing buildings and add to the height was a bold one in conservation terms but was carried out to complete success.
The modest design now draws the eye from the car park, making it the obvious first port of call for visitors. The entrance hall has taken on a cathedral-like quality and the museum element of the scheme tells the history of the dockyard offering a flowing route through the space, leading ultimately to the hidden timbers of an unknown ship underneath the floorboards. Rigorous in terms of repairs, reversibility and selection of new materials, specialist craftsmen were enlisted to make all new additions and to carry out the sensitive repairs such the scarfing of the timbers in the mast house.
Hastings Pier, East Sussex
One of the most unique buildings to make the 2017 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist was the newly rebuilt Hastings Pier which had be devastated by a fire in 2010. dRMM Architects were tasked with the heroic mission of transforming the smoulding ruin into a vibrant public space. A collaboration between the firm, engineers, local community and council, the architect’s vision was vital throughout to steer the project. Required to take on many local needs and with an absent owner who would not respond to dangerous structural repair requirements and no rebuild budget, the architect had to form the brief themselves and raise the money before the pier could be redesigned. The response to the brief was to design a strong community led/owned service platform which could accommodate numerous uses from concerts to markets.
Unlike many piers in the UK, the decision was made to not place a building at the end of the structure. This wide open space provides a sense of calmness and delight with a strong connection to both the sea and the seafront. A ‘walking on water’ optical effect has been heightened by the optics of the louvred balustrade and high-quality timber deck. A new visitor centre has been placed at the weakest part of the pier using a simple CLT structure clad in reclaimed timber salvaged from the original pier. This new addition helps create a sense of belonging and forms a place where locals can meet for coffee thanks to the rooftop café. With adaptable spaces to hold numerous events and exhibitions, it has become a catalyst for urban regeneration in the area.
City of Glasgow Collage - City Campus
A merger of Glasgow’s central, metropolitan and nautical colleges, this super college was imagined by Reiach & Hall Architects and Michael Laird Architects. Bringing together facilities and teaching previously housed in 11 separate buildings across the city into two central campuses, the new buildings span more than 60,000m2, with City Campus the second to be unveiled. Combining six major faculties in 300 high-tech classrooms, multipurpose lecture theatres and specialist teaching facilities, there was an astonishing scale and complexity to the brief which needed to be constantly addressed by the architects.
The design had to not only resolve the brief, but also contribute to the wider city as a whole and give back to the students learning within its walls. The architectural skill required had to extend from the cityscape itself through to the organisation of student spaces, encouraging social interaction across disciplines and take a considered approach to materials and detailing. The impression of the building signals its presence as an important place of learning with internal spaces designed to encourage both formal and informal teaching processes. The materials and form of the building have been purposely restrained to radiate skill, clarity and elegance from each angle.
Barrett’s Grove, Stoke Newington, London N16
The only residential building on the 2017 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist, Barratt’s Grove was designed by Groupwork + Amin Taha. The characterful building is positioned in an urban London street adjacent to a primary school and boasts a whimsical quality thanks to its jutting wicker basket balconies. Built with a staggered hit-and-miss brick façade, the exterior exhibits a larger than usual pattern, with the material wrapping up and over the roof juxtaposing beautifully with the external wicker elements. Inside the apartments are double aspect and each room offers generous proportions rarely found in the capital. Each space has been constructed wisely to make the most of the proportions, for example a workspace has been added to the top floor maisonette overlooking the living room, to form additional space which doesn’t detract from the original design.
Photography Studio for Jeurgen Teller, Ladbroke Grove W10
Tasked with creating a new studio, offices and archive for celebrated photographer Jeurgen Teller, 6a Architects’s brief was to create light-filled, flexible and informal spaces with natural flow and sociability. Positioned in a less picturesque area of London which is so common of warehouse and studio space, the architects introduced three courtyard gardens designed to create beautiful internal views. Largely honed from concrete, the design is industrial in style with warmth and refinement added through timber and brass elements along with the greenery of the courtyards. A fine example of fabric first and low energy design, the needs of the client have been integrated perfectly to create a statement of orderliness and precision which still retains a relaxed and playful atmosphere.
The winning building from the 2017 RIBA Sterling Prize shortlist will be announced on Tuesday 31st October at the Roundhouse in Camden, North London. Take a closer look at this year’s shortlisted buildings on the RIBA website.