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North Manchester Sixth-Form College, by Walker Simpson Architects, won the inaugural RIBA/LSC Further Education Design Excellence Awards at a ceremony at the RIBA on 8 November. The awards were launched to recognise the best colleges that have been built with funding from the Learning and Skills Council (LSC). Since its inception in 2001 the LSC has committed £4 billion to building projects. Its aim is to have 90 per cent of 17 year olds in education or training by 2015. Stephenson College, Leicestershire, by Pick Everard, was the runner-up, and South Trafford College, by John McAslan + Partners, received a special mention from the judges. The other shortlisted entries were Newcastle Performance Academy, by RMJM, SE Essex College, by KSS Design Group, and New College Durham, by RyderHKS.

RUNNER-UP Stephenson College, Leicestershire Pick Everard Following consultation with staff, Stephenson College decided to replace its collection of outdated buildings with a £15.2 million development on the outskirts of Coalville in Leicestershire. The college offers vocational qualifications in a wide range of disciplines, calling for bespoke environments.

The key decision to locate accommodation off a central street, with workshop space on one side and classroom space on the other, has resulted in a highly practical and legible building.

SPECIAL MENTION South Trafford College John McAslan and Partners The £2 million Creative Arts Block combines flexible teaching areas and staff facilities with creative studios for ceramics, sculpture, photography and computer-aided design. The jury was impressed by the use of a few key moves to bring a strong sense of identity to what is essentially a very straightforward building, including a 'cutaway' portion of the central corridors to create a top-lit fullheight 'canyon' bringing natural light to every floor.

WINNER North Manchester Sixth-Form College (MANCAT) Walker Simpson Architects This £9 million building combines a sixth-form college with a public library, meeting the needs of a local community which previously lacked access to public facilities and space. Visitors enter through an impressive glass facade into a full-height atrium and are welcomed up to the first-floor library, which is shared between the college and the city. Teaching accommodation is housed in a separate block, creating an L-shaped building which partially encloses a community garden. The judges said: 'While the building is both welcoming and fun, it is never patronising. There is a level of sophistication which suggests that it takes its students - and its public - seriously.'

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