As our theme for the month is Sterling, it seems to be the perfect time to reflect upon the RIBA Stirling Prize 2018. Founded in 1996, the Royal Institute of British Architects Stirling Prize was named after the architect James Stirling. It is one of the most prestigious accolades that an Architect can achieve, one that is heavily competed for and hard to attain. It signifies the ultimate triumph in the field, and whoever wins it can safely say they have made one of the biggest contributions to British architecture in the last year.

Bloomberg by Foster + Partners 

This year’s winner is Bloomberg by Foster + Partners, with Bushey Cemetery by Waugh Thistleton coming in a very close second place. Bloomberg is thought to be a massive achievement for architecture, and as the largest stone building in the City of London since St Paul’s Cathedral was built in 1675, this project has caught the attention of many. Foster + Partners have focused on sustainability in this development, aiming to rethink the classic ‘office-in-the-city’ design. It is 1.1 million square feet, occupying enough workspace for 4,000 members of staff. The new building has also added in new access to Bank Underground station, restaurants, cafes and a museum which has the Roman Temple of Mithras on display (a historical site that was discovered in the location sixty years ago.) An elegant, environmentally friendly design on the outside paired with an open-plan interior creates a space that facilitates the company’s way of working and which is simply inspiring to look at.

So Foster + Partners won the title this year, but what about the previous winners? Let’s take a look at some of the very worthy winners of the prize from the past ten years.

Last year in 2017, dRMM triumphed with winning the prize with the Hastings Pier, East Sussex. But this wasn’t the only honour it earned in the same year, as the pier certainly gained its fair share of attention from other awards, with its conquests in receiving the RIBA People’s Vote and being named the 2017 Pier of the Year by the National Piers Society. This bustling, open space on the East Sussex coast, once a neglected wreck, has been restored to a place where people can gather to attend a variety of different events which range from music and entertainments to fishing and markets. The RIBA President Bed Derbyshire describes the transformation as ‘stunning’ and a location where visitors will continue to be inspired and delighted for years to come. To give a once discarded site a new heart, pulse warmth and glow, so it may be enjoyed once more, is a fabulous achievement – well deserved by dRMM.

Hastings Pier by dRMM Architects (left) and Newport Street Gallery by Caruso St John Architects (right)

In 2016, Caruso St John Architects was victorious with the Newport Street Gallery, Vauxhall, London. This private gallery was formed quite extraordinarily from a terrace of listed industrial buildings which used to be scenery painting and theatre carpentry workshops. The gallery spans the length of the street, giving the viewer a lengthy journey through rooms filled with vibrant pieces of art. The site is flexible in its design, and with 3 large galleries on each of the two floors, Newport Street Gallery is able to accommodate both large and small exhibitions. Caruso St John Architects’ creation partly incorporates Victorian workshop designs in their beautiful new construction, keeping an authentic feel to the gallery, a very important asset to remember to incorporate in design, which many architects often leave out in their pursuit of new modern creations. But Caruso St John Architects have got the balance just right.

Allford Hall Monaghan Morris made their mark with Burntwood School, in Wandsworth London in 2015. AHMM’s aim was to create a ‘complete and coherent campus’ to feature new teaching facilities, modern sports and performing arts facilities generously intermingled with public squares and lawns. This was a mammoth task, with which AHMM majorly demonstrated their talents in several different areas.

“Burntwood School demonstrates the full range of the skills that architects can offer to society. It encompasses great contemporary design and clever reuse of existing buildings as well as superb integration of artwork, landscaping and engineering.”

–       Riba president Jane Duncan and Architects Steve Tompkins and Peter Clegg

They were also praised for their sophisticated use of prefabricated modular structures and sculptural facades where concrete panels create angled recesses around windows. The company has created a beautifully structured school that creates a great learning atmosphere, which is of a standard that every school child in Britain should be able to experience. This is truly AHMM’s masterpiece.

Burntwood School, Wandsworth by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris Architects

In 2014, Haworth Tompkins won with Everyman Theatre, Liverpool. This sophisticated, chic new home for the famous theatre features a curved auditorium built from 25,000 reclaimed bricks, with 400 seats and a large foyer. The theatre was formerly located in a 19th-century chapel, whose bricks were re-used for this new ‘hugely welcoming and exceptionally sustainable’ construction. Haworth Tompkins has created a design with cleverly thought out lighting and use of space, and just taking a look at the clean-cut design, colour scheme and overall layout of the auditorium and café, it is clear what an extraordinary contribution to the city and the industry they have made. Hats off to Haworth Tompkins on this one.

 Everyman Theatre, Liverpool by Haworth Tompkins Architects

Witherford Watson Mann Architects earnt the prize in 2013 with Astley Castle, Nuneaton, Warwickshire. The original castle was built five miles outside Nuneaton in the 12th century, and has been home to three queens of England and has served as a parliamentary garrison during the civil war until a fire brought its downfall in 1978. The new creation built up from the ruins of this original castle beat out competitors for the prize such as Sheffield’s Park Hill redesign by Hawkins/Brown with Studio Egret West and the Bishop Edward King Chapel by Niall McLaughlin Architects. This 2.5m intervention was an outstanding restoration in which the architects have demonstrated a modern approach while maintaining a strong sense of the original building and it’s important contribution to history. It incorporates timber-framed windows, an outdoor dining room enclosed by broken gothic tracery on one side and partially roofed by a timber canopy and lit by a roaring open fire. Witherford Watson Mann has been hugely praised for completing a huge project ‘with beauty, intelligence and a rigour that runs through to the smallest of details.’

Astley Castle by Witherford Watson Mann Architects (left) and Sainsbury Laboratory by Stanton Williams Architects (right) 

In 2012, Stanton Williams won with Sainsbury Laboratory, Cambridge. The building has been described as ‘a timeless piece of architecture, sitting within a highly sensitive site.’ Stanton Williams created a new landscape, its simplicity in design hiding complexity of the task at hand. The architects aimed for flexibility, an aspect which was necessary for future changes in scientific practice. The building manages to balance openness with requirements for security, done by placing laboratories on the first floor, public access on the ground floor in the form of a lecture theatre, and finally a café open to the public sitting between the lab’s private courtyard and gardens.

Zaha Hadid won for a second time in 2011 with Evelyn Grace Academy, London. This is the second year running that Hadid has won the prestigious prize. Zaha Hadid architects received a complicated brief for the task at hand: ‘creating four schools under a single academy umbrella with the need to express both independence and unity’. This task was made more complex by the fact that there wasn’t a huge amount of space to build on, it required the architects to be innovative in a way that they had never been before. They completed the project with a stylised use of steel and glass, squeezing the building onto 1.4 hectares of land, and still managing to incorporate details such as a 100m running track at the centre of the location.

Evelyn Grace Academy by Zaha Hadid Architects

In 2010, Zaha Hadid took the crowning title for the first time with MAXXI – National Museum of the 21st Century Arts, Rome, Italy. Zaha Hadid Architects have created a well-lit building with a roof of skylights, beams and louvres with orientate and create new, uplifting spaces. The judges commented:

“MAXXI is described as a building for the staging of art, and whilst provocative at many levels, this project shows a calmness that belies the complexities of its form and organisation. The nature of the project means everything has to be over-specified- throughout the design process the architects had no idea what the series of rooms would be used to hang, so walls which will bear a ton of rustling steel might be graced by miniatures.”

Maggie’s Centre by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

In 2009, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners won with Maggie’s Centre, London. A beautiful cancer care centre in West London. Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners were very worthy of this prize as they succeeded in completing a very demanding and challenging brief: to create a sanctuary for terminally ill cancer patients with the client Charles Jencks. Mr Jencks wish was to create a centre as a memorial to his wife Maggie, and to ensure a comfortable and peaceful place for other patients to spend the rest of their days. The site succeeds in igniting a positive spirit with a roof canopy which hovers above a series of internal gardens, courtyards and roof terraces. It’s colour scheme and lighting design provide the antithesis of a hospital, creating an open house in the city, and a warm, loving atmosphere. This is an exceptional establishment, which has allowed many to find harmony with their situation and has united them with the best possible care.

In 2008, Feliden Clegg Bradley Studios, Alison Brooks Architects and Macreanor Lavington made it to the top with their creation of Accordia housing development, Cambridge. On a brownfield site in Cambridge which was formerly owned by the military, a series of generous sized houses and flats were created. The architects make an idyllic throwback to the 1950s with their creation of a common land where children of the residents can play, instead of having individual gardens. These are conventional houses with a difference. Accordia has scissor plan stairs, ambiguous inside-outside spaces, and a design that has aimed and succeeded in reducing waste, improving environmental performance and site safety.

Accordia, by Feliden Clegg Bradley Studios, Alison Brooks Architects and Macreanor Lavington Architects

So there it is, ten winners, ten extraordinary projects, ten dedicated groups of architects that will no doubt continue to make surprising, remarkable and beautiful creations all around Britain. We’ll keep our eyes peeled.

Get Connected

Follow Me on