ROYAL GEOGRAPHICAL SOCIETY, LONDON SW7 The Royal Geographical Society's use of a corner of its gardens as an exhibition pavilion with low energy use, climate-controlled storage and a reading room semi-submerged beneath a new terrace is a triumph of transformation. The society had become trapped by its history in a Victorian mansion designed by Norman Shaw and splendidly located just along Kensington Gore from the Royal Albert Hall. The epitome of Empire and exploration, the RGS headquarters was cluttered with souvenirs accumulated by explorers from Darwin and Dr Livingstone to Sir Ranulph Fiennes.
The dilemma was how to get all this wonderful stuff out of cupboards and attics, store it properly and make it accessible. New RGS director Dr Rita Gardner launched the project 'Unlocking the Archives' in 1998.
A brave decision was made to entrust the design to a young architectural practice which had as yet to demonstrate a completed building. To pay for the project, some £5 million was raised from the Heritage Lottery Fund and 2 million from other donors.
Now the historic material is safely in climate-controlled storage; it is available for study in a delightful modern reading room; RGS has a shop-window exhibition space; the historic building is relieved of clutter as meeting space; and the 'secret' garden has survived to be enjoyed as breathing space.
For a building or civil engineering project of any size which the judges consider to be particularly inspirational in one or more aspects. Sponsored by Arup THE TEAM Client Royal Geographical Society (with the Institute of British Geographers) Cost £4.5 million Principal designer Studio Downie Architects Structural and services engineer Arup Contractor Durkan Pudelek Other firms Clark Smith Partnership (structural engineer contractor's proposals);
Peter Deer & Associates (building services);
Grace Servicised (waterproofing)