Haworth Tompkins’ ‘daring and bold’ Everyman Theatre in Liverpool has won the this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize
The theatre, which replaced a much-loved institution in the city, was hailed by the judges as a ‘ground-breaking example of how to build a sustainable public building in a historic city centre’.
The building saw off competition from previous Stirling Prize-winner Zaha Hadid Architects with its London Aquatics Centre, the people’s favourite Library of Birmingham by Mecanoo, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ Manchester School of Art, The Shard by Renzo Piano and bookies’ frontrunner O’Donnell + Tuomey’s Saw Swee Hock Building at the London School of Economics (LSE) to bag the prize.
The project with its ‘striking and elegant interior’ is Haworth Tompkins first new-build theatre and it is the first time the practice has picked up the prestigious accolade. The practice was previously shortlisted for London’s Young Vic Theatre in 2007.
The original Everyman Theatre opened in 1964 in the shell of a nineteenth century chapel, but the building was in a state of disrepair and Haworth Tompkins’ scheme saw it pulled down and replaced in a nine-year-long project.
Speaking at the awards ceremony, held at Portland Place, tonight (16 October), RIBA president Stephen Hodder, said: ‘The success of this exceptional new building lies in the architect’s close involvement with the local community throughout the project. Haworth Tompkins has struck the perfect balance between continuity and change to win the hearts and minds of the people of Liverpool with the vibrant new Everyman.
‘Complementing beautifully with the surrounding listed buildings, it is a ground-breaking example of how to build a daring bold and highly sustainable large public building in a historic city centre.’
Receiving the award, Steve Tompkins, said: ‘Winning the RIBA Stirling Prize is an enormous honour for our project team and our clients, the reward for an intensive collaboration over almost a decade, during which we have grown to love the Everyman and the great city that it serves.
‘It is also an important endorsement of our studio’s ethos and an encouragement to carry on working the way we do, despite the pressures all of us are under to speed up and dumb down. We couldn’t be more delighted.’
Everyman & Playhouse artistic director Gemma Bodinetz and executive director Deborah Aydon added: ‘The Everyman was built with humanity at its heart, an intent embodied by the 105 people of Liverpool on its façade. Since we reopened the warmth of feeling from the public to their much-loved Everyman – given a daring and brilliant rebirth from Haworth Tompkins – has been almost overwhelming. Haworth Tompkins have delivered us a building that is sustainable, technically first rate and with unparalleled levels of accessibility for a theatre. On a small site with many competing needs and technical necessities they overcame every challenge with zeal and imagination to create something which is a beautiful as it is functional.
‘But most of all they have transformed a building that lacked so much into a building that embodies what the Everyman’s ethos has always been: world-class theatre in our auditorium, nurturing new writing, great food in convivial spaces, and somewhere for young people to dream of a future where nothing is impossible. Ten years ago when we embarked on this journey with Haworth Tompkins we could never have imagined it would end in winning the RIBA Stirling Prize: they have designed a building that supplies joy beyond expectation to every visitor and those of us lucky enough to work there.’
It was the fifth time RIBA Gold Medal winners O’Donnell and Tuomey had been up for the award but despite being hotly tipped to win by the bookies, it wasn’t the practice’s lucky night.
The judges for this year’s awards were Spencer de Grey of Foster and Partners, MJ Long , Cindy Walters, Stephen Kieran of Kieran Timberlake, and Timothy Sainsbury architectural patron and client.
‘The new Everyman in Liverpool is truly for every man, woman and child. It cleverly resolves so many of the issues architects face every day. Its context - the handsome street that links the two cathedrals – is brilliantly complemented by the building’s scale, transparency, materials and quirky sense of humour, notably where the solar shading is transformed into a parade of Liverpudlians.
‘The ambience of the theatre is hugely welcoming with three elegant and accessible public foyers for bars, lounges and café/bistro. Clever use of materials with interlocking spaces and brilliant lighting make this an instantly enjoyable new public space for the city.
‘It is exceptionally sustainable; not only did the construction re-use 90% of the material from the old theatre, but all spaces are naturally ventilated including the auditorium with its 440 seats. Clever, out of sight concrete labyrinths supply and expel air whilst maintaining total acoustic isolation. It is one of the first naturally ventilated auditoria in the UK.
‘The generosity of its public spaces, which, on a tight site, are unexpected and delightful, are used throughout the day and night. As Howarth Tompkins’ first completely new theatre, it is a culmination of their many explorations into the theatre of the 21st century.
‘It is ground-breaking as a truly public building, which was at the heart of the client’s philosophy and ethos. In summary, an extraordinary contribution to both theatre and the city, achieved through clever team working – client, architect, consultants and contractor – where the new truly celebrates the past.’