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Rory Olcayto: 'These six buildings should make the Stirling shortlist'

These six buildings should make the Stirling shortlist. Why? Just because, writes Rory Olcayto

There’s only one thing to do when you have all the RIBA award winners gathered in one place: pick the Stirling Prize shortlist – six of the best from 59 this year. So here it is, the unofficial but definitive list of contenders and why they’ve made the cut.

Hackney Marshes Centre by Stanton Williams

Hackney Marshes Centre by Stanton Williams

Hackney Marshes Centre by Stanton Williams. Because it dignifies Sunday league football (not easy). Because it’s the most social building on the list (who’s got the soap lads?). Because it’s got a built-in burger stand (brown sauce, please). Because it has this amazing detail in the changing rooms – windows overlook a more loosely packed section of gabion wall and the light that finds a way through really does dapple. One nil.

New Court by OMA and Allies & Morrison. Because this building for the Rothschild Bank breaks City of London height rules so directors overlook the Bank of England from their triple-height skyroom. Because it gives the impression of creating public space by opening up views of a forgotten church by Wren. Don’t try and walk up to St Mary Woolnoth through the newly revealed graveyard however; like the beautiful lobby, London’s best in years, it’s strictly off limits.  An OMA classic. Witty. Sinister. Hot. Get in.

The Lyric Theatre by O’Donnell + Tuomey. Because it makes us think of Aalto. Because it’s far better than An Gaeláras in Derry, also by O’Donnell + Tuomey, which was shortlisted last year. Because it looks and feels civic in a way that Bennetts’ Royal Shakespeare Company in Stratford-upon-Avon – another brick ensemble and another theatre in the running two years ago – doesn’t. And because if it wins this year, and Hackett Hall McKnight’s Mac Centre is shortlisted next year (as it should be) and wins, Belfast’s developers and planners might be awoken from their deep slumber.

Wexford County Council Headquarters by Robin Lee Architecture. Because it’s the first major work by the brightest star in the emerging new guard of British architecture. Because the detail and execution here rivals that of Chipperfield’s best. Because all civic offices should be this good. Because although it seems as though Wexford has come from nowhere, the brains behind it – Robin Lee – was the joint founder of NORD and had been working towards this classic all his professional life.

Brockholes Visitor Centre by Adam Khan Architects

Brockholes Visitor Centre by Adam Khan Architects

Brockholes Visitor Centre by Adam Khan Architects. Because it’s the best of the crop of new buildings with clustered bisected pyramid roofscapes like this. Really, it’s a trend – see DRDH’s church in Beacon Hill Baptist Church in Tulsa, US. Then see Feilden Clegg Bradley Studio’s weird new library in Worcester for how not to do it. (It’s called The Hive, if Google’s proving sticky.) Mostly though, it’s on the list because vistor centres are rarely this romantic. Or nearly half as good.

Finally: Garsington Opera Pavilion by Snell Associates. Because if you’re looking for demountable architecture par excellence, forget the Olympics and its half-baked approach (I’ll bet the stadium is never scaled back) and check out this summer pavilion in High Wycombe. Because if you’re pining for Archigram’s walking cities, forget Peter Cook’s ossified balloon (aka the Kunsthaus) in Graz, or Roger’s messed-around with Pompidou, and learn from this one instead. Because this is High-Tech architecture as it was meant to be: useful, social, pop-uppable, put-downable. Not listed like the Lloyds for Cedric’s sake! And the overall winner? I’m not sure yet.

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