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RIBA Awards 2013: Public

Public buildings once again have the biggest showing in this year’s RIBA Awards, with 10 securing the coveted accolade and four achieving the EU honour

Among them is the sensitive restoration of Astley Castle by Witherford Watson Mann, which ‘saves the essential and eliminates the incidental’, as critic Joseph Rykwert observed. Arts venues come out well: HAT Project’s self-assured Jerwood Gallery; Hackett Hall McKnight’s soaring MAC with its honed basalt tower; Gareth Hoskins with PJP’s elegant harbourside Mareel Arts Centre. Much of the work uses colour and materials to powerful effect: The Hive, by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, has golden metal shingle cladding which shimmers in the sun; while the streamlined yellow aluminium roof of the

Enzo Ferrari Museum in Modena by Future Systems and Shiro Studios is the architectural equivalent of a ride in a gleaming sportscar. Surely some Stirling Prize contenders here?

Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, Antrim, Northern Ireland, Heneghan Peng

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This BREEAM ‘Excellent’ scheme (AJ 04.10.12) can be understood as two folds in the landscape: one fold up to accommodate the building and a second fold down to form the car park. Between these two folds a ramp leads towards the causeway itself, which lies 1km away. The two geometries play against one another. The building appears to be born of its place: the irregular lines of basalt columns grow and recede into the landscape to form the building’s edges, while the roof becomes a part of the landscape’s contour.

Astley Castle, Warwickshire, Witherford Watson Mann Architects

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The client’s brief was to provide a contemporary house (AJ 05.07.12) within the ruins of a 12th century manor destroyed by fire in 1978. Putting the bedrooms and bathrooms on the ground floor and communal spaces above makes the experience of the house very special. The most impressive spaces are the ruins of the Tudor and Jacobean wings, where the reading of the remains is enhanced by the new interventions. The architects have developed carefully considered rules and a methodology for new construction against the existing structure.

Heartlands, Redruth, Cornwall, Stride Treglown

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The 7.7-hectare Heartlands site is the gateway to the area’s last working mine: Robinson’s Shaft. Working closely with the numerous client bodies, the architect has painstakingly pieced together a site not only of well-restored and new buildings, but one with a strong narrative. In an area with some of the lowest levels of prosperity in England, this project is an optimistic catalyst for social change for the community and by the community - and one in which ‘architecture’ is rightly prepared to take a back seat.

Mareel, Lerwick, Shetland Isles Gareth Hoskins Architects with PJP Architects

Resulting from a national competition, Mareel (AJ 18.04.13) is the UK’s most northerly arts venue. Its design draws on the utilitarian forms of traditional industrial harbourside warehouses, but inside lies a warm interior, designed to welcome visitors. This high-quality and inclusive arts and cultural facility provides much-needed performance and recording spaces. This is an inspirational venue and, together with the new museum and council offices, with which it links, Mareel is a key catalyst to the regeneration of this waterfront edge of Shetland’s capital.

The Mac, Belfast, Northern Ireland, Hackett Hall McKnight

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The complex brief for a multifunction arts centre with two theatres, three galleries, rehearsal spaces, studios, café and bar has been resolved to create a world-class public arts venue (AJ 10.05.12). The volumes are stacked; over seven storeys around a central top-lit foyer space, yet each is well conceived and beautifully lit in its own right. Smaller spaces are threaded around these large volumes in a seamless manner, again without compromise. It is a building where the process of discovery sets up a series of delightful surprises.

Chedworth Roman Villa, Gloucestershire, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

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The concept of using Roman remains as the foundations for the new shelter was a bold move, but one wholeheartedly supported by the National Trust, English Heritage and Cotswold District Council’s conservation officers, as it avoided the need for new footings on sensitive ground. The shelter is designed so that ‘archaeology remains the star of the show’. The resulting architecture is refreshingly restrained and understated, refusing to impose itself on the site. Rather, it will weather gracefully as a part of the landscape and its unearthed riches of mosaics.

Jerwood Gallery, Hastings, East Sussex, HAT Projects

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The Jerwood (AJ 26.04.12) is small but it has the unmistakable gravitas of a public building. The building’s carefully modulated scale does not overpower the surroundings. Like the nearby iconic fishing net sheds, the Jerwood is black. However, instead of tarred timber this is due to its green-black terracotta tiles, whose glaze the architect describes as ‘oily’. The collection galleries are treated as rooms in a house. There is a temporary exhibition gallery with a contemporary feel, and a café, counter-intuitively located upstairs, with views over the town and the beach.

Stowe Landscape Gardens Visitor Centre, Buckingham, Cowper Griffith Architects

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The Grade II*-listed New Inn, the gateway to Stowe Landscape Gardens, is approached and the courtyard entered with little sign of new hands at work. The oak frame repair and replacement work reaches a powerful conclusion with the diagonal grid frame to the chapel-like glazed restaurant space. All original fabric was retained where structurally stable and repaired with the honesty expected of a specialist conservationist. Thus the original welcoming character is revived but conservation is balanced against the need to create visitor access to all of the buildings.

Ironmonger Row Baths, London EC1, Tim Ronalds Architects

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The original public bathhouse was built in 1931 and a swimming pool was added in 1938. In this complex refurbishment project the architect has created a new basement by reconfiguring load-bearing walls, allowing the spaces to feel lighter, more transparent and welcoming. The new internal finishes use terrazzo combined with iroko joinery, which offers a durable civic quality in the spirit of the original buildings. Yet the feel is modern and the baths have all new services and fittings to current standards, maximising sustainability and accessibility.

The Hive, Worcester, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

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The Hive houses a joint university and public library, the county archive, a local history centre and a multi-agency customer service centre. With its golden metal shingle cladding, the building shines like a beacon, and has an articulated roof form inspired by the distant Malvern Hills and iconic Royal Worcester kilns. The interior is conceived as a town square, with all the facilities in plain sight. The seven cross-laminated timber roof cones define the interior and bring in daylight.

Enzo Ferrari Museum, Modena, Italy, Future Systems / Shiro Studio

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The bright yellow form of the new museum rises up behind the 19th century restored birthplace of Enzo Ferrari. Within this space the architect put cars on pedestals, elevating them as works of art. Support spaces are accommodated underground, with curved apertures giving views. The symmetry of the steel vault is very efficient. This architecture is complete and conceptually strong and a fitting legacy for the world-famous car designer - and for Future Systems’ Jan Kaplický, who died before the project was completed.

Sorø Art Museum, Denmark Lundgaard & Tranberg Architects

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This simple but austere addition to an existing courtyard museum in the heart of a historic town is masterful in its restraint and accomplishment. The L-shaped plan creates two new courtyards, with the main north-south orientated gallery building mirroring the volume of the existing museum. The building uses specially manufactured long brick shingles of warm earthen hues, laid in a continuous plane with no gutters, for both its pitched roof and walls. The interiors follow through with the same spare use of materials.

Municipal Auditorium of Teulada, Alicante, Spain Mangado y Asociados

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Francisco Mangado has delivered a regional arts centre with a very relaxed atmosphere on a modest budget. The surprisingly intimate main auditorium seats 680 and has both a fly-tower and full orchestra pit, enabling a wide range of productions to be staged, from concert music to opera and theatre. An additional smaller auditorium is dedicated to piano recitals and chamber music. The fenestration of this fair-faced concrete auditorium frames the landscape while bringing it into the foyer and exhibition space.

Frederiksberg Courthouse, Copenhagen, 3XN

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The bulk of the building is mitigated by a sloping roof which runs down to the neighbouring 1921 classical Court House, to which it is linked by a glazed bridge. Its relevance and sensitivity to context is celebrated through the use of beautifully crafted in-situ and prefabricated panels of brickwork, and its fenestration enlivened by the use of external, folding, perforated aluminium shutters. Internally, the plan, cross section and circulation are resolved with clarity and simplicity, with a full-height, generously day-lit space extending through the length of the building.

Cooled Conservatories, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore Wilkinson Eyre

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The Gardens by the Bay (AJ 29.11.12)represent best practice in sustainability and the project endeavours to communicate the sustainability messages to a wider audience. Two contrasting biomes covering 2 hectares (making them the biggest climate-controlled greenhouses in the world) feature a dry Mediterranean climate and a cooler, moist environment. Both comprise a superstructure of radial steel ribs paired with a steel gridshell forming the substructure. Low-energy glass lets in 64 per cent of the light but admits only 38 per cent of the corresponding solar gain.

Francis Gregory Library, Washington DC, Adjaye Associates with Wiencek + Associates

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The Francis Gregory Library sits like a pavilion within Washington’s Fort Davis Park. Views of the park are framed from within, while the exterior of the building both reflects and complements the dense trees and striking natural environment. The two-storey LEED ‘Silver’ library provides space for three major library services: adults, teenagers and children. There is also a public meeting room and conference rooms. Viewed from the street, the building appears to flicker with the changing light.

William O Lockridge / Bellevue Library, Washington DC, USA, Adjaye Associates with Wiencek + Associates

A civic building within a residential context, the William O Lockridge/Bellevue Library has been inserted into a steeply sloping site topography. Rather than a single monolithic form, the library is a cluster of geometric volumes, both elevated and grounded physically to the site. Using the grounded main volume for the library, the elevated volumes create a welcoming entrance that can be used for events and informal gatherings. Wrapped in a concrete and glazed skin with timber fins, the building envelope articulates its vertical presence in the landscape.

Central Market Souk, Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, Foster + Partners

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Fosters took the concept of the shaded souk and applied it to the mall. Shade, fountains and pools, networks of courtyards, alleys and squares are all elements of Arabic architecture and here they are used to facilitate an architecture where roof and wall panels slide to enclose or open up the building according to the time of year. The scheme both replicates the stalls of traders who used to trade on the same site and the luxury goods emporia that attract high rents and high net-worth shoppers.

Bodrum International Airport, Mugla, Turkey, Tabanlioglu Architects

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Bodrum International Airport is the exception to the rule that airports tend to be non-places. The clear, efficient diagram is mitigated by the use of local materials, particularly the black marble flooring, as well as steel, aluminium and glass. The glass is clear, opaque, or screen-printed, balancing mountain views with control of solar gain. The design engenders an airport as calm and relaxing as it is possible for this building type to be. There are open terraces both on air- and land-side where passengers can escape the busy-ness of the airport.

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