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RIBA Stirling Prize: the profession reacts


The profession reacts to the decision to award the 2016 RIBA Stirling Prize to Caruso St John’s Newport Street Gallery

Jay Merrick, architecture critic of The Independent:
’I feel a twinge of satirical satisfaction in the fact that Caruso St John’s Newport Gallery, such a meticulously designed and crafted building, should contain vast, gazillion-dollar artworks featuring Jeff Koons in various states of airbrushed rutting and ejaculation.

’This juxtaposition of spatial civility and the art equivalent of lubricious gold bars encapsulates the fact that the gallery is surrounded by dreadful, Lucifer-bright tower blocks for the hard of taste – an architectural bling-acne that is spreading through parts of inner-city London branded as “edgy”.

’Satire aside, there’s no question that the gallery is that rare thing in the regeneration of historic urban fabric: a beautifully made, free-to-enter public object. Why don’t more regeneration projects feature adapted or extended historic buildings – even quite ordinary ones – that are the product of architects with heightened contextual intelligence? The answer: there are exceptions, but in general Great Britain plc just wants to achieve construction cashflow in the simplest, as-before ways possible.’

Piers Taylor, founder of Invisible Studio and AJ alternative panel judge
’It’s a great building and the obvious choice. But it also begs the question - What is the Stirling for? Do we care any more? Don’t we know this stuff? Where do we go next? How do we make architecture make a difference and make it relevant to a broad section of the public that neither know or care about architecture? And how can architecture move beyond rich white guys commissioning ascetic white guys to do a project with few constraints for the already converted?

Andy Puncher, PH+ Architects
’Congratulations to Caruso St John for winning the Stirling and delivering a beautifully crafted building. I hope however that the contribution that the Riverside campus plays in linking public and private space whilst building a new piece of city is fully celebrated. Congratulations to all but hope the role architecture can play in wider place making becomes a key component in the shortlisting for 2017.’

Nick Johnson, formerly of Urban Splash
’The Stirling Prize is one of the architects most coveted rewards. It sexed-up architecture and made it accessible prime-time mainstream viewing at a moment in time when the cultural zeitgeist ran in architecture’s favour. That it did this in the name of James Stirling is a deep rooted delight. It continues to serve as a reminder of how vital buildings are, as a barometer of our culture. Tonight’s victory for the Newport Street Galley from a strong field, recognises both a building, and a practice, that have had a profound impact on some high profile projects that enrich us with their intelligence and artistry. It’s a difficult act to repeatedly pull off and it’s well deserved.

Alan Dunlop, Alan Dunlop Architects
’Many congratulations to Caruso St. John, it looks a very accomplished and considered work, beautifully detailed and executed as you have come to expect from such talented architects. My commiserations to Reiach and Hall and Michael Laird but also my congratulations for they have managed to produced something extraordinary, despite a restrictive design and procurement process. Without such committed and dedicated architects, The City of Glasgow College could have and probably would have been standard stuff, instead Glasgow has and exceptional new building on the Clyde riverfront that the city can be proud of.’

Jerry Tate, partner, Tate Harmer
’I think the best building won, which in the end must be the point about the Stirling Prize but I can’t help feel sad that the broad-shouldered toughness of the City of Glasgow College did not get the gong!’

Peter Clegg, partner, Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios
’It’s a really good decision, it’s quite predictable. Most people I know thought they’d win. It’s a beautifully detailed building put together with a passion for gallery design. Of all the buildings on the shortlist it will have the most lasting quality. It brings a new expectation of what a gallery is in the city.

‘It’s a very thoughtful piece of architecture by a thoughtful architect.’

Ian Ritchie, founder of Ian Ritchie Architects
’I am delighted that subtlety has won over any personal architectural statement. It’s to Damien Hirst’s credit that he engaged thoughtful and talented architects who understand history, combining the past, the present and the future through their brilliant expression of an appropriate architecture. The spaces enabled a celebration of John Hoyland’s paintings - the first exhibition there - magnificently.

‘And they have done this with refined detailing that can be appreciated within the larger sequence of generous spaces that make real architecture tangible. I’m really pleased for them, their engineers Alan Baxter Associates, and Damien. Bravo.’

Subtlety has won over any personal architectural statement

Ian Ritchie

Val King, managing director, The Rooflight Company
‘It’s a worthy winner. The detailing and response to the brief was clearly exceptional. I for one am going to see it.’ 

Jack Pringle of Perkins + Will
‘Caruso St John has clearly produced an incredible interior – which is right up my street. The staircase is amazing. 

‘I would have gone for Herzog & de Meuron – an amazing facility in an extraordinary place. 

‘This is going to be a huge shot in the arm for the practice. Although they are well known to us in the profession, this will get them much wider exposure. 

‘I just hope clients just don’t think that they are too busy to take on more work.’ 

Alex Flint, director, ShedKM
‘As per tradition, the Stirling Prize has drawn together an eclectic mix of heavyweight contenders and the token ’peoples’ favourite, for good measure. The winning Newport Street Gallery looks to be a strong and steady example of Caruso St John at their finest. 

’There is a beauty and refinement in the project, but there is also a feeling of a bygone romanticised industrial era, which perhaps no loner holds true to Lambeth. 

’An understandable, but maybe an also predictable winner.’

Kevin Singh, head of Birmingham School of Architecture and Design 
’I’m delighted to see Caruso St John win the Stirling Prize for the Newport Street Gallery. It’s heartening to see a building which is part new build, part conversion/refurbishment be rewarded in this way. It’s calm yet confident and has some special moments such as the staircase and the bridge, whilst at the same time capable of handling the drama of the artwork. In an increasingly image and brand conscious culture, a quiet building has to be special to be recognised.’

Eva Jiricna, founder, Eva Jiricna Architects
’I have been trying to think when or even if I heard the word “passionate” so often when talking about architecture. That is fantastic news and a wonderful reason for a massive celebration. We certainly need passionate clients passionate architects creating passionate buildings in the world of the ordinary.

’I am thrilled (as I would be you can probably imagine) that the building is highly priced for tis immaculate and ingenious detailing. From what I gather from the photographs and comments I have heard the interior is stunning and I have no doubt it is 200 per cent true. Knowing the architects for a long time I salute their patience and intellectual capacity to take every project through a rigorous process of control and high quality level and managing to deliver without any cut corners.

’Apart from “passionate” the interiors were also referred to as being poetic. That is such a typical feature of Caruso St John’s architecture. They have done so many buildings during their practice which enriched our lives exactly by that - the time has come to admit that the journey has been long and certainly not easy but has come to well deserved recognition.

’As all the buildings even this one has its outside and somehow rather the passion and poetry have not penetrated the external walls… I am sure it has been the intention and I cannot imagine winning too much support on this front. Nevertheless my little “me” would love to see a little bit of fun especially at that part of London when passing by without time to make my heart beat faster by walking up the truly extraordinary staircase. I remember somebody somewhere mentioned that every minute of life without a smile is a minute lost…

’Consequently I am not losing minutes I have been smiling out of happiness this project has won the Stirling Prize - Congratulations John and Adam 😊!’

2016 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist

2016 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist

Source: Helene Binet

Newport Street Gallery by Caruso St John

Carl Turner, founding director, Carl Turner Architects
’Chalk one up for the biscuit boys!’

Tom Bloxham, Urban Splash
‘It is a great choice. There is a great simplicity and understated beauty about the gallery. 

‘It was a fabulously generous gesture by Damien Hirst to create a free gallery in quite a rundown part of London. It is so refreshing to see a building which lets the art work speak.’

Keith Williams, founder, Keith Williams Architects
’I have in the past found myself perplexed by the Stirling judges’ verdict so I am really pleased that my first choice has made it this year. The Newport Street Gallery comprises a really skilfully crafted series of interventions, reworking, retaining and extending a former warehouse in a gritty part of town. So what you may say! 

’But the success of this project lies in being both both humble and exquisite at one and the same time. That is a very difficult trick to pull off. 

’The rawness of the materiality and the beautifully judged sequence of gallery spaces interrupted by delightful insertions in particular the swirling main stair, capture the essence of great architecture.

’Congratulations to Caruso St John.’ 

Edward Jones of Dixon Jones
’Delighted to hear that Carouso St John won the Stirling Prize with their fine project- this is an important moment of resistance to the silly and inconsequential in much contemporary architecture. Bravo.’

Mark Kelly, director at Arney Fender Katsalidis 
’I congratulate all of the shortlisted colleagues who are acknowledged for their individual contribution to the significance of this award.

’Alas there must be only one winner, however, the real winner is the profession of architecture.

’The public are now a great part of this event and are equally interested in the outcome. It has become internationally recognised as has that very British capability and skill.

’Congratulations to Caruso St John, but perhaps the greatest winner is the profession and Architecture with a very capital A.’

Alan Jones, Queen’s University Belfast
’Congratulations to Adam, Peter and all the members of the project team. Awarding the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize to the Newport Street Gallery affirms the positive civic, cultural and social contribution of carefully considered architecture.’

Caruso St John are one of the few that make it seem that architecture with a capital ’A’ still survives 

Sam Jacob

Sam Jacob, Sam Jacob Studio
’Caruso St John are one of the very few who make it seem that architecture - capital ‘A’, disciplinary architecture - still survives on our tiny market-driven philistine island. This might be a modest building but it sits within a particular, recognisable and distinct world view. One that with great clarity provides a vision of what architecture might be in and of itself.’

Chris Loyn, Loyn & Co
‘I feel fantastic. To win the public vote – and simply to be on the shortlist – will make a massive difference to the practice. However I do not want to expand the my office. I believe in team work and believe in our studio work. We are passionate about what we do and that goes missing when you concentrate on pure business. 

‘The architectural principles we adopted at Outhouse are transferable to housing everywhere. 

‘I suspect the judges went for Newport Street because of its [clever] reuse, the tight constraints and the client satisfaction. Plus it has commodity, firmness and delight.’

Glenn Howells, Glenn Howells Architects
‘It was a winner on so many levels. It demonstrates that 1:5 beats 1:500.’

Angela Brady, former RIBA president
‘It was a great shortlist. And the winner is good. But I liked WilkinsonEyre’s building. The way it gave the building new life, cutting out pockets.’

Jo Cowen, director, Jo Cowen Architects
’A truly exceptional and sensitive architectural proposal, well considered and appropriate in its subtlety, design and execution.’

Source: Jim Stephenson/Laura Mark

Patricia Brown, director, Central
’Sandwiched between the less than lovely Lambeth Walk and a railway viaduct, the Newport Street Gallery had to find its place in an area that has been a sort of a no-man’s land, yet now undergoing a transition. In the context of that, Caruso St John has played their hand well, creating a handsome, beautifully crafted, building that manages to be both distinctive yet blending into its intensely urban setting.’

Stephen Smith, Wright & Wright Architects
’I have been there twice now after friends told me this would be this year’s must see project. Brilliantly planned with a ‘can I please touch it?’ palette of materials. The staircases are a tour de force - crafted, sculptural and beautifully formed. The galleries are calm and understated by comparison, lofty and with wonderfully balanced light - letting the artwork speak for itself.’

Caruso St John’s Newport St Gallery is a sensitive tour de force worthy of the prize

Heinz Richardson

Heinz Richardson, director, Jestico + Whiles 
‘The Stirling shortlist pitted some very disparate but highly accomplished and exceptional buildings against each other. Choosing a winner was never going to be easy. Caruso St John’s Newport Street Gallery is a beautifully crafted and sensitive tour de force worthy of the prize and no real surprise. My personal favourite and stand out winner however was Reiach and Hall’s City of Glasgow College simply because it has gone beyond the creation of beautiful architecture and transformed a place.’

Oliver Goodhall, co-founding partner, We Made That
’I couldn’t care less about more irrelevance from the RIBA and their endless prizes. Out of touch and out of shape. I do like seeing saw-tooth roofs and a sexy digital billboard out of the train window though - good on them at Caruso St John!’ 

John Assael, founder, Assael
’Well done to Caruso St John. It is a sophisticated solution executed with great elegance. Inspirational.’ 

Chris Boyce, design director, CJCT
’An excellent choice, almost a conservative one, but curiously in the light of other ‘luminaries’ comments on the nature of baked goods being boring and only big shape making being cool. This is reassuringly rebellious!  

’Glasgow College is fabulous, and the Weston Library is a subtle tour de force, but Newport is simple but delicious - an English Rich Tea among the sparkly Viscounts.’

Michael Wilford
‘The best of the bunch - cool, calm and collected - a most welcome contrast to the frequent banal or frenetic additions to the urban scene. Not bad from a YBA!!’

Jeremy Dixon, Dixon Jones
’I am absolutely delighted that Caruso St John have won the award. The Newport Street Gallery is typical of their work for its combination of thoughtfulness, restraint, beautiful craftsmanship, and urban subtlety. A combination of qualities signally missing in the Blavatnik School, quoted as a close runner up.’


Readers' comments (3)

  • chris Dyson

    Congratulations to a creative team and client, this architecture speaks volumes.

    Respecting the past and making good use of an old building without need for demolition will be recognised in the future as thoughtful and timeless qualities.

    This form of architectural approach is not often recognised at this level of professional competition and it good to see. Sophisticated Architecture of substance over style that is to be applauded and respected.

    Good engineers, and supporting team have clearly crafted the best from this particular site and the opportunities presented by the brief for a gallery.

    Even if the use changes in the future, which I hope it won't - this will still be a useful building and a credit to all involved. Bravo, a great to the stirling prize list!

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  • Ecologic

    Congratulations to Caruso St John- a well crafted beautiful building but we have to heed Piers Taylor's incisive comment- for more well crafted beautiful public architecture.

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  • I agree with ecologic. Glasgow offers lessons on the public procurement and encouragement of architecture which Newport street does not. Both demonstrate the importance of the client. But then that's a prerequisite for great architecture. Nevertheless a very deserved and appropriate winner of an award given by architects to architects.

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