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RIBA Awards 2013: Public realm

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The UK architectural profession’s love affair with Clerkenwell, oddly likened to a village in a recent Daily Telegraph round-up of Britain’s best suburbs, suggests it has a much higher regard for historic building stock than decent public spaces, so nobody was shocked when there was only one National and one Regional RIBA Award in last year’s Public Realm category

This year’s accolade adds another National Award to that haul. But Allies and Morrison’s Olympic Park masterplan is a gem, especially for its landscaping, regarded by AJ Sustainability editor Hattie Hartman as the highlight of the London 2012 construction programme. Of course, the best thing about this King Midas transformation is that it’s here to stay. Although these predictions can be tiresome, it does have a Stirling shortlist feel about it - perhaps London 2012’s last shot at the ultimate award. Patel Taylor’s Eastside City Park, Birmingham, is another park therapy exemplar.

Eastside City Park, Birmingham, Patel Taylor

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This is the first new park to be inserted into the dense urban grain of the city of Birmingham for 130 years (AJ 28.02.13). Built on a brownfield site, it is the focal point of the Eastside regeneration area. The park has a strong structure, organised around a simple and striking wide path running 370m east to west, linking two lawns and lined with pergolas. The most significant public space is the gently terraced City Park Square, which is animated with water fountains and large sculptural lighting features.

The Olympic Park Masterplan, London E20, Allies And Morrison

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The focus of activities during the Olympic and Paralympic Games, the plan (AJ Olympic Supplement 09.12) is organised around a central spine of pedestrian circulation linking the entrances and venues, formed partly by new bridges. Wildflower meadows give local communities access to high-quality green space. Without the Games, the area would probably have been developed in an ad-hoc manner. London 2012 offered the opportunity for a thoughtful masterplan for a large area of East London’s regeneration.

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