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Murphy: Doolan Prize-winning library is ‘one of our best buildings’

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Richard Murphy has said his 2017 Doolan prize-winning Dunfermline library is one of his practice’s ‘best buildings’ – while remarking on the ‘peculiarities’ of the RIBA and RIAS awards systems 

The scheme in Fife was announced as the champion of this year’s £25,000 prize for the best building in Scotland – making it the richest architectural award in the UK – at an awards ceremony at the National Museum of Scotland on Tuesday night (7 November). 

Speaking to the AJ, Murphy said: ‘It is one of the best buildings we’ve ever done – it plays to what we are really strong at. It’s a building which has got a whole series of different uses inside it and they’re all quite well reconciled with each other.’

But he suggested it was strange that his project had won the Doolan prize despite not having won a RIBA National Award.

‘Our building didn’t even get an RIBA National Award,’ he said, ‘but then leapfrogged over those that did to get a RIAS award, which is one of the peculiarities of the RIBA, RIAS parallel awards system. But there you go, I’m not complaining.’

Murphy’s project was chosen from a 12-strong shortlist, beating Reiach and Hall and Michael Laird Architects’ 2017 Stirling Prize-shortlisted City Campus for the City of Glasgow College, and Ann Nisbet Studio’s Newhouse of Auchengree. 

Talking about his library, Murphy said: ‘There isn’t a single repetitive space in the entire building and everything is organised in a very dramatic way with this internal street and the staircase and the bridges – people love that. It’s very clear where everything is; people enjoy circulating up the middle of the building.

‘There’s nothing in the building that doesn’t work on its own terms: the museum makes a very good museum; the galleries make very good galleries; the reference library is pretty spectacular; and the café is wonderful. I’m very happy that each thing worked on its own but together they make more than the sum of their parts.’

Murphy added that the building provided ‘some wonderful and not quite accidental framed views of buildings and landscapes’, and also described it as ‘a very good demonstration of how you can put a contemporary building into a conservation area’.

The Dunfermline Carnegie Library and Galleries sits alongside the Category B-listed Andrew Carnegie Library, and includes a museum, art galleries and children’s library.

Last year, the Doolan prize was won by Page\Park for its Saunders Centre science and technology building in Glasgow. 

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