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Stephen Lawrence Prize sponsored by the Marco Goldschmied Foundation Think Tank, Skibbereen

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Stirling Prize 2003

Set on the banks of the River Ilen, near Skibbereen in West Cork, this £200,000 building by Gumuchdjian Architects was conceived as a cross between a thinker's retreat and a bird-watcher's hide. Architectural references to both boathouses and barns are resolved into a simple expression of roof, frame and screens, making a timeless, almost 'found' object in a stunning landscape. The openness of the structure is tempered by cedar slatted screens, which provide shade and contain the views.

The judges said: 'This is a sophisticated yet primitive hut which very successfully fuses the tradition of vernacular building with immaculate detailing. The design process was an excellent collaborative effort between the local builder - with his knowledge of materials and weathering - an architect with well-informed vision, a London-based specialist contractor and a client with an unerring sense of simple decorum.

'The materials were selected to juxtapose 'stable' elements, such as glass and stainless steel, with those materials that weather, like the cedar roof planks, slats and decking. The low walls and the overhanging cedar roof provide physical and psychological shelter from the volatile weather with its sudden and dramatic storms, while the transparency of the glazed wall panels sets the occupier within this most beautiful river setting. The hybrid structure of timber-encased steel piers and timber roof trusses and edge beams speaks of a close dialogue between engineer and architect in the struggle to create a simple, timeless object.'

Buro Happold was the engineer, Verney Naylor was the landscape architect and Bill Wolfe/DMI was the contractor.


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