Wilkinson Eyre Architects' £17.7 million Millennium Bridge in Gateshead has won the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust (RFACT) and BSkyB Building of the Year.
In a surprise win over the favourite, Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners' Eden project, the bridge, which opens to river traffic once a day, was praised for its imagination and the success with which the project was carried out.
RFACT chair Lord St John of Fawsley said that the scheme - which won a RIBA award last week - represented a fantastic addition to the Tyne, a river already globally renowned for its bridges.
Jim Eyre of Wilkinson Eyre said that winning the award was very 'satisfactory', especially when the competing projects were considered. He said: 'The competition was strong and the variety of different entries made the prize all the more pleasing.'
He claimed the decision to give the award to a bridge represented a landmark for the profession.
Making the award, Lord St John claimed that architecture is the 'people's art' because it is entirely free, completely accessible and 'doesn't even entail anyone entering a building'.As a result, public opinion is stronger about architecture than any other field of the arts, he said.
In the specialist areas, Jeremy Dixon and Edward Jones' Saïd Business School won the education category and Allford Hall Monaghan Morris' Monsoon Building won the conversion award. In the restoration category, the award went to Caroe & Partners and Hawkes Edwards & Cave's Beckford's Tower in Bath. McAllister Co's Battersea Park Boathouse won the park pavilion category and the organ builder, Kenneth Jones & Associates, won the Jeu D'Esprit prize for its Rugby School Chapel Organ.
Other projects shortlisted were Daniel Libeskind's Imperial War Museum North, The Eden Project, Richard Rogers Partnership's Lloyd's Register of Shipping, Stanton Williams' Royal Botanic Gardens Seed Bank, John McAslan & Partners' Royal Academy of Music and its Trinity College of Music, Haworth Tompkins Architects' Coin Street Community Housing and Sarah Wigglesworth Architects' 9/10 Stock Orchard St in Holloway.