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RIBA Client of the Year Award 2017 winner announced

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Bedales Schoool has been announced as the winner of 2017 RIBA Client of the Year Award for its Art and Design building, designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Nominated by the practice, the Hampshire school received the award at the Stirling Prize party in north London tonight [31 October], beating the Tate, Forestry Commission, and London Borough of Enfield. 

The accolade was judged by RIBA awards group chair Tom Bloxham and Julia Barfield of Marks Barfield. Speaking about the new two-storey building, Bloxham said the client had demonstrated the ’ability to deliver something of value with a constrained budget’.

’The students of Bedales were at the centre of the process from the outset; a Student Design Committee was established and had meaningful involvement from choosing the right practice to determining the use of the space, layout and details,’ he said.

’Parents, students and Old Bedalians all delivered feedback on initial designs which were then adapted to maximise teaching space and ensure that the building was not only an impressive artefact from the outside, but a functional space for students to develop their creative talents. It’s great to see an institution like a school putting so much energy and effort into its architecture, hopefully other schools and institutions can take inspiration.’

The project was FCBS’ second scheme for the school, after it was commissioned in 1996 to build its RIBA Award-winning Olivier Theatre.

The award, supported by The Bloxham Charitable Trust, recognises the role that good clients play in the creation and championing of excellence in architecture.All four clients were the driving forces behind 2017 RIBA National Award-winning schemes.

Last year, the prize was won by Westmorland Limited, the client on the much-praised Gloucester Services, which was designed by Glenn Howells Architects and AFL.


Bedales School, nominated by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Fcbstudios bedales school of art and design building hufton crow 1

Fcbstudios bedales school of art and design building hufton crow 1

Source: Hufton + Crow

Bedales School Art and Design Building by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Through the sensitive siting, form and material choice, the building engages in dialogue with adjacent existing buildings, on what is a complex site with rich history. The careful siting also develops new relationships with the landscape, having been set on a key location near the entrance point to the site. The honesty of the building’s material expression allows users to see how it was put together, which really chimes with the client’s idea of creating an educational instrument, especially given the school’s interest in ‘hands on’ building construction. For the spatial arrangement, a lead was taken from the previous well-lit single-storey interconnecting studio block and passing between each of the studios, hence seeing each of the design disciplines to reach the next.

The single-storey existing studios have been re-invented over two storeys, with generous overhangs to make external spaces for use by students, which was also a conscious move to manage area and the tight budget. This is a building that engages with the landscape, bringing the outside and inside spaces together, and with the use of simple materials which help to make the two be read together. Playful use of light through layering of lattice screens to façade and external covered areas offers a joyful and varied experience for users and visitors alike. It is a piece of intelligent client commissioning and a great design response.

Bedales School Art and Design Building by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (citation from practice) 

If I could insist upon one thing for this project, it would be that there should be all manner of incidental places to be – places to sit, to draw, to fall in love, to do all the things that happen when you are at Bedales that make it such a wonderful place to be.

The manner and spirit of the conversations with Matthew Rice, chair of governors, and others at the school was so influential – it was a co-authorship in the truest sense. It is a building after a philosophy of being – the ethos of the school is manifest throughout.

The shortlist

  • Forestry Commissionnominated by Glenn Howells Architects and Invisible Studio 
  • London Borough of Enfieldnominated by Karakusevic Carson Architects
  • Tatenominated by Herzog & de Meuron 
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