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Zaha wins Stirling Prize for second year running

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Zaha Hadid has won the Stirling prize for a second year running, after her Evelyn Grace Academy in London was handed the prestigious accolade last night (1 October)

Hadid followed up last year’s success with her ‘uplifting’ MAXXI museum of modern art in Rome by again scooping the £20,000 first prize, this time with her ‘effortless’ Z-shaped academy project in Brixton.

The £37.5 million scheme, her practice’s first large-scale project in the UK, was second favourite to win the prize according to the bookmakers William Hill behind Hopkins’ hotly tipped and much-backed Olympic 2012 velodrome.

The result came as a surprise to many at the ceremony in Rotherham’s Magna Centre and also, it appeared, even to Zaha Hadid who wasn’t there to pick up the award. The Iraqi-born architect was reportedly stranded in the US. Instead long-term collaborator Patrik Schumacher collected the accolade on behalf of the practice.

The academy is a good quality and functional modern school

The other finalists were; the Royal Shakespeare and Swan Theatres by Bennetts Associates; the Angel Building by three-time shortlisted practice AHMM; An Gaeláras by O’Donnell and Tuomey and Museum Folkwang by previous Striling Prize victor David Chipperfield Architects.

Hadid has now made the shortlisted for the UK’s most prestigious archtiecture award five times. Before the Evelyn Grace she was a finalist with Nordpark Cable Railway, Austria, in 2008; Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg, Germany, in 2006; BMW Central Building in Leipzig, Germany, in 2005: MAXXI in Rome, 2010.

Now into its 16th year, the annual RIBA Stirling Prize is awarded to the ‘building that has made the greatest contribution to the evolution of architecture in the past year’ and is run in association with the Architects’ Journal and Benchmark.

Speaking tonight, RIBA President Angela Brady, Chair of the judges, said: ‘The Evelyn Grace Academy is an exceptional example of what can be achieved when we invest carefully in a well-designed new school building. The result - a highly imaginative, exciting Academy that shows the students, staff and local residents that they are valued - is what every school should and could be.

Seh aded: ‘The unique design, expertly inserted into an extremely tight site, celebrates the school’s sports specialism throughout its fabric, with drama and views of student participation at every contortion and turn. Evelyn Grace Academy is a very worthy winner of architecture’s most prestigious award and I am delighted to present Zaha Hadid Architects with this accolade.’

Why Evelyn Grace won the RIBA Stirling Prize: the judges’ comments

This is Zaha Hadid Architects first large-scale project in the UK: a school situated in the ward with the highest crime rate in Western Europe.

The architects received a complex brief: four schools under a single academy umbrella with the need to express both independence and unity. This is a large school on a small site, occupying just 1.4 hectares, whereas the average secondary school takes up 8 hectares. Curiously for a school whose speciality is sport, the original site seemingly lacked any opportunity for significant outdoor sport but the architects have responded with guile and intelligence, providing a multi-use Astroturf pitch which can be used for football or simultaneously by games requiring smaller playing areas. 

In one corner of the site they have even found room for a wildflower garden. The project is distinguished by its planning not its formal expression; its saltire (Scottish flag) plan solving multiple demands of site and usage in a manner that seems effortless.

There are two entrances to the street, one on either side of the site.  It is cut in half by a bright red 100 metre sprint track with the school building diagonally bridging the track.  Entrances to the buildings are at the half way point.

The school is planned in the shape of a ‘Z’. Entrances and terraces are woven into the wings so that pupils are dispersed throughout the site between lessons. 

Internally the academy is a good quality and functional modern school, with occasional moments of architectural drama which serve as reminders that this is architecture and not just building, though not in any way at the expense of utility or value. At the outset the architects decided against having an atrium that has become a trope in the design of so many academies.  Instead of wasting space, and therefore money, in this way, they spend wisely on better designed and lit classrooms and wider corridors.  Also on the big rooms on two floors at the heart of the plan which can be divided by acoustic screens into dining, teaching, assembly, drama and indoor sport areas.

This is a design that makes kids run to get into school in the morning. 


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