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Caruso St John’s Newport Street Gallery wins RIBA Stirling Prize 2016

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AJ readers’ favourite – Caruso St John’s Newport Street Gallery – has won this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize

The transformation of almost an entire street of listed industrial buildings in south London into a free public gallery for artist Damien Hirst was described by the judges as ‘a bold and confident contribution to UK architecture’.

The art gallery saw off competition from a housing scheme by dRMM, bookies’ favourite the Blavatnik School of Government by Herzog & de Meuron, WilkinsonEyre’s Weston Library, Reiach & Hall and Michael Laird Architects’ City of Glasgow College and the winner of the BBC’s people’s choice vote, Outhouse by Loyn & Co.

Although overwhelmingly chosen by AJ readers as their favourite in a recent online poll, the gallery was the bookmakers’ rank outsider and was still being offered at 5/1 yesterday morning (6 October). William Hill reported the majority of bets had gone on Herzog & de Meuron’s Blavatnik School of Government (5/2 favourite).

It is understood the judges were equally torn by the schemes on the shortlist, with the jury split 3 to 2 between the Caruso St John-designed gallery and the Blavatnik School of Government.

A conversion of three Victorian buildings formerly used as scenery-building workshops for West End theatres, the Newport Street Gallery features a series of interconnected gallery spaces on two levels.

The judges described Caruso St John’s approach to conservation as ‘irreverent yet sensitive, achieving a clever solution that expresses a poetic juxtaposition of old and new’.

They added: ‘The collection of buildings is beautifully curated, pulled together by the use of brick yet still expressive of their individuality. The playful use of LED technology gives a contemporary addition to the facade.

’The collection of buildings is beautifully curated’

‘Internally, the five buildings are connected as a continuous and coherent sequence of light-filled gallery spaces. The simple and logical circulation is enlivened by exquisitely detailed and sensuous staircases.’

2016 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist

2016 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist

Source: Helene Binet

Newport Street Gallery by Caruso St John

It is the third time lucky for Caruso St John – which celebrated its 25th anniversary last year. The practice was shortlisted for the Brick House in 2006 and the New Art Gallery Walsall in 2000.

The judging panel, which was chaired by Zaha Hadid Architects’ Patrik Schumacher, included AHMM’s Paul Monaghan, Heneghan Peng co-founder Roisin Heneghan, Mike Hussey, founder of sponsor Almacantar and artist Rachel Whiteread. 

In contrast the AJ’s alternative judging panel thought that the winner should be Reiach & Hall and Michael Laird Architects’ scheme for City of Glasgow College. 

Although wowed by the detailing of Caruso St John’s Newport Street Gallery, the AJ’s judges felt Glasgow College ‘showed how much difference a good, skilled architect can make to an unambitious brief’.

Speaking at the awards ceremony held at Portland Place tonight (6 October), RIBA president Jane Duncan, said: ‘With Newport Street Gallery, Damien Hirst has made an exceptional contribution to the UK’s strong history of private patronage of architecture. Not only has Damien opened up his enviable private art collection to the world, but he has commissioned a real work of art to house it in. 

‘Caruso St John have created a stunningly versatile space from a number of linked buildings, with beautifully crafted staircases and superb details including tactile brick facades that blend the street externally and create a succession of wonderful gallery spaces.

‘This project exemplifies the best of UK architecture – a highly considered and creative project that brings to life a previously unloved pocket of the city. I am delighted to present architects Caruso St John with the 2016 RIBA Stirling Prize.’

Source: Jim Stephenson/Laura Mark

Reacting to the news Peter St John, co-founder of Caruso St John Architects said: ’It’s rare for architects to be given the opportunity to realise a personal vision of the quality of the Newport Street Gallery, and for that vision to have a generous public dimension.

’We see the building as a palace for direct, intimate and luxurious encounters with contemporary art, and we are very pleased that this award will bring more people to see this extraordinary collection.’

A delighted Damien Hirst said that the practice had ’understood from the start’ his vision to ’stay true to the history and roots of the building’.

He said: ’Newport Street Gallery has realised my ambition to create an unobtrusive and beautiful series of buildings that work perfectly as a space to exhibit great art. 

’I am immensely proud of what we achieved and the reaction it has received in its first year of opening and hope people will continue to enjoy it.’

Source: Jim Stephenson/Laura Mark

  • 3 Comments

Readers' comments (3)

  • Congratulations gentlemen , well deserved , wonderful piece of work .

    John Meagher , RIAI , RIBA .

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  • Felix Mara

    I'd begun to feel all six finalists were only there to make up the numbers, but then I realised the Newport Street Gallery was the exception, especially as the one with the standout detail: that exquisite staircase, part Chippo, part Rye House.

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  • On top of the demolition of 6 council estates, the closure of 10 libraries, the vanity project of the Garden Bridge and the eviction of the Brixton Arches, this is just what Lambeth needs: another Damien Hirst gallery selling Jeff Koons for $58.4 million. Another servile thumbs up by the architectural profession for the gentrification of another working-class neighbourhood. No wonder the Qatari Investment Vehicle has begun to take an interest in the area. As the jury said: 'A generous asset to an evolving community' – just not the one that currently lives there. There goes the neighbourhood.

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