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RIBA awards: proof of healthy, changing UK architecture

editorial

A week after the Queen's celebrations of 50 years on the throne, Her Royal Institute of British Architects'own celebration of 58 of the best buildings in Britain is a similarly powerful snapshot of the state we're in. As the main sponsor of the RIBA's Stirling Prize, we bring you them all in this issue starting on page 18, with full reports on each from the juries on our website, at ajplus. co. uk What immediately catches the eye is the number of private residences to have made the cut - 11 of 18 domestic schemes. Projects like Foggo Associates'Sorrel House, James Gorst Architects' The Lodge, Burd Haward Marston's Manser medal-winning Brook Coombes House, Alison Brookes Architects' VXO House in Hampstead, and Scampton + Barnett's Fairhazel Gardens are evidence that there is a new breed of wealthy patrons of domestic architecture recognising the added value an architect can bring.The flipside is schemes like Haworth Tompkins Architects' Iroko Housing Co-operative in London, a non-profit-making, high-density housing solution of the kind clearly needed - but there are only two social housing schemes in all.

Grand Lottery Architecture is less to the fore, with blockbuster galleries and millennial spectaculars like the Eden Project and Magna replaced by smaller, more 'local' projects, such as Hakes Associates'Wycoller Visitor Centre (see working detail on page 45).This conversion of an ancient barn (barns and farms being another theme this year - see also Barnhouse, The Lodge, Quaker Barns, Artigiano Design Centre) is a small museum, and a first project by a young practice. It sits well with a likely Stirling contender - the Weald and Downland Open Air Museum by Cullinan's, at the other end of the experience scale.

There's just one factory and several farm building conversions, reflecting post-industrial Britain; nine 'education, education, education'buildings - one 'vertical', one made of cardboard and one, gratifyingly, a quality PFI.

There's one religious scheme; two projects with generous donors - Gates and Said - in their name; no sports building and none from the East Midlands or Foster and Partners.But the Queen can be cheered.British architecture is alive and well. Here's to another 50 years.

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