Alison Brooks has won the AJ Women Architect of the Year Award
The Toronto-born architect picked up the prestigious accolade at a ceremony in London’s Langham hotel today.
Brooks, 50, was praised by the award jury for her ‘extraordinary’ approach to affordable housing and her ‘unique’ and instantly recognisable buildings.
Alongside the top prize, Eva Jiřičná collected the Jane Drew Prize for lifetime achievement and Catalonia-based Olga Felip was named Emerging Women Architect of the Year. Studio Weave’s Maria Smith was also commended.
Celebrating the AJ Women in Architecture campaign (sponsored by Roca and Place Careers) which is now in its second year, the ceremony was followed by a keynote speech from postmodernism icon Denise Scott Brown.
Alison Brooks’ practice, Alison Brooks Architects was the first British studio to win the Stirling Prize (for Accordia in 2008), the Manser Medal (for Salt House in 2007) and the Stephen Lawrence Prize (for Wrap House in 2006).
Earlier this week, Brooks told a BBC Radio 4 Woman’s Hour discussion the practice of architecture demanded long hours and said that the unfair taxation system and the cost of childcare was a problem.
She said: ‘It is difficult for women (and all) architects to afford the expense of childcare. For women to become a major force in the workplace, childcare costs need to be deductible from income, as a business expense.’
AJ Woman in Architecture awards judge Paul Monaghan said: ‘One of the things she’s starting to stand for now is producing great housing for ordinary people, not just for rich people, and I think that’s something that the whole jury applauded’.
Fellow judge Colette O’Shea, head of the London portfolio for Land Securities, agreed: ‘I think that [Brook’s] work in housing is important in today’s environment where we can’t house all of our population,’ O’Shea said. ‘She’s working in a world where financially it’s difficult and yet she’s producing exemplar buildings under tight budgetary constraints.’
Last year Alison Brooks Architects completed two projects that represent a key moment in the practice’s approach: a radical new housing typology in Newhall ‘B’ and an innovative use of material in Lens House.
‘She’s working with not specifically exciting housing briefs, but boy does she make great housing out of it - working with the ordinary and making it extraordinary,’ said Ivan Harbour, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.
‘Her work is unique,’ Monaghan added: ‘She’s one of the few architects that you know before you see her name that it’s an Alison building. Her mixture of sculpture, detail and architecture is what has made her such a powerful force in British architecture.’
‘And she’s running her own practice,’ said Zaha Hadid, ‘and that’s not easy.’ The practice’s current projects include large-scale residential and regeneration projects and the practice is expanding its portfolio of higher education and arts buildings.
Alison Brooks Architects is designing Exeter College Oxford’s new quad, which will be the first Oxford College to be designed by a female architect. Brooks sits on the CABE National Design Review and the RIBA Awards Group.
In the words of Laura Lee, chief executive of Maggie’s Centres: ‘She’s someone for us all to admire and look up to’.
- AJ Women in Architecture is sponsored by Roca and Place Careers