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RIBA Stirling Prize: the profession reacts

Burntwood School by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
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The profession reacts to the judges’ unanimous decision to award the 2015 RIBA Stirling Prize to Allford Hall Monaghan Morris for its Burntwood School in Wandsworth

Morag Myerscough, founder, Studio Myerscough
‘I feel absolutely ecstatically happy. All the things that we have done together over the past 20 years came together in this school. I’m so glad that it has been noticed in this way. I’m overwhelmed. Paul Monaghan is really loyal to the teams he works with and collaboration. I’m so happy for them.’

AHMM really knows how to design schools

Kevin McCloud, TV presenter and developer
‘I thought the Whitworth was going to win. It’s so important that this building won. It’s beautiful and really builds a relationship with the Leslie Martin buildings. All in all I thought it is a really clever and considered scheme. But it’s not their first school, AHMM really knows how to design schools. I’m so pleased for them.’

Roisin Heneghan, director, Heneghan Peng
‘I thought the Whitworth would win. At the Stirling Stories presentation the school looked very strong. The process of selection for the shortlist is quite riogourous, so just to get on it is a great thing.’

Phil Coffey, director, Coffey Architects
‘The award is well deserved, AHMM are a fabulous practice and the award is well deserved. They don’t get the credit they deserve for the quality of the architecture. The fact that the decision was unanimous really says it all. It’s a complex building. A very beautiful building. It shows that architecture really makes a difference when designing schools.’

I was taken by the ingenuity in the scheme

Stephen Hodder, winner of the first Stirling Prize and past-president of the RIBA
‘For me it was a head and heart thing. My heart wanted The Whitworth to win. Having lived so close to the building, it has done so much for the park and the community. It’s impact has been far wider than the just the building. Very recently I heard Paul Monaghan talk about Burntwood and I have to say I was really quite taken by the ingenuity in the scheme.

‘Interestingly, tonight one of the comments made was about collaboration and what it takes to deliver a scheme like this. Aside from the architecture, what it takes to deliver a project like this and to manage the operation of the school with such a significant development is a staggering feat. It’s a beautiful scheme and so clever. So my heart said Manchester, but my head said Burntwood.’

Graham Stirk, partner, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
‘I am proud we were on the shortlist. I am really pleased because I am married to one of the winners (Susan Le Good). I am delighted for AHMM.’ 

Ben Derbyshire, managing partner, HTA Design
‘A richly deserved win for a building of exciting sculptural beauty which will become a lasting exemplar of how design can improve and enhance educational achievement. Well done AHMM! Next year I’d hope for an equivalent example of how architects are contributing to resolving the housing crisis!’

Hal Currey, founder, HAL
‘The shortlisted architects stress the support of their particular client team – lending strength to the argument it takes a well informed client working with a good architect to create a great building.

‘This is very apparent at Burntwood School – where the architects had to navigate through the project with  a three way client – the school, developer Lend Lease and Wandsworth Council.

‘AHMM’s win is very welcome – their ability to maintain quality while balancing the stresses of running a large practice, a significant achievement.’

AHMM are such talented guys who really deserve this accolade

John Assael, founder, Assael Architects
‘I am so pleased that Burntwood school in Wandsworth has won the Stirling Prize - I live in the Borough and it was easily my favourite -  outstanding design - AHMM are such talented guys who really deserve this accolade. Well done.’

Walter Menteth, Walter Menteth Architects
‘This year’s Stirling Prize award is a delight. Schools can and should be exemplars. The architecture of Burntwood represents a pinacle in social aspirations, quality and robustness that works to deliver a real difference in the quality of our childrens education. AHMM remarkable achievement has been to do this with unique insight, skill and lyricism that sets an unrivalled benchmark for the aspirations of a civilised society.’

Russell Curtis, director, RCKa
‘This is an excellent result. Although I was hoping that Niall McLaughlin would walk away with the prize, this award achieves a similar objective: recognising that an inspired client working with a talented architect can still achieve a public building of such care and quality despite the myriad barriers that are inevitably placed in the way. The choice of Burntwood School is doubtless a political one: a vindication of the now defunct BSF programme that demonstrates that far from creaming off cash from the public purse, architects were instead far more interested in transforming the lives of those who were lucky enough to be taught in the buildings designed by them.’

Ken Shuttleworth, founder, Make Architects
‘It’s fantastic to see that the RIBA Stirling Prize - the pinnacle of British architecture and something that every architect aspires to achieve - is still going strong after twenty years. And what a worthy winner, my congratulations go to Allford Hall Monaghan Morris for devising an elegant, inspiring and thought-provoking building in Burntwood School.’

Good school design is fundamentally important

Alan Dunlop, founder, Alan Dunlop Architects
I was hoping Maggie’s would win and although disappointed for Reiach and Hall, I’m delighted that the school has won. It looks like an excellent project with a very satisfied client where the pupils seem to be flourishing. Good school design is fundamentally important, it has been empirically proven that it matters and the design of the physical environment improves learning levels and pupil attainment. It’s a lesson that the governments in Westminster and Edinburgh need to recognise and respect.

Heinz Richardson, director, Jestico + Whiles
‘I am delighted that AHMM have triumphed after coming close on so many occasions. It is particularly encouraging that the jury has placed value on excellent school design and the impact on Education. This should send a powerful message to a government intent on eroding design quality at every opportunity.’

Education deserves architecture of the very highest standards

Michel Mossessian, design principal, Mossessian Architecture
‘It is a great moment in a world so obsessed with financial values, that a prize is awarded that celebrates architecture for education. Education deserves architecture of the very highest standards. Stirling raised its standard inexorably today. Well done AHMM!’

Paul Testa, founder, Paul Testa Architecture
‘The result was a bit of a surprise to me because housing is such a hot political topic at the moment and especially as the shortlist contained two examples at the opposing extremes of what housing is and who it is for.

Burntwood School is what school design should be

‘I was working on BSF projects when the program was cancelled and was dismayed at the short-sighted view of the decision and that design was used as a scapegoat for the high costs. Burntwood School is what school design should be: celebratory, aspirational, light and comfortable - everything that the Priority Schools Program will struggle to deliver. For that reason alone it is the perfect winner at this critical moment when we say goodbye to an era when schools like this were possible.’

Susan Le Good, associate director, AHMM
‘I worked Burntwood school at the very beginning when we were bidding for it. I am absolutely delighted and completely surprised. I phoned my mum, she was delighted too.’

Tom Westwood, architect, Waugh Thistleton Architects
‘You don’t get nominated for the Stirling prize four times in eight years without being a great practice with remarkable consistency, and if this is partly (although it would never be admitted) an award for outstanding contribution to 21st century British architecture it is no less richly deserved. 

‘It is also I believe a conscious statement to our current government in defence of investment in schools in the face of their continual drive to deny all but the bare minimum. Our children deserve better and I’m for once proud of the RIBA for saying so. At £2,100 per square metre Burntwood school is incredible value and as one of the last BSF projects completed proof that quality and economy can coexist happily in the right hands.’ 

Cindy Walters, co-founder, Walters & Cohen
‘I’m really delighted that Burntwood School won, I would like to congratulate AHMM on winning Stirling in their 25th anniversary year, a practice at the top of their game and wonderful that it was a BSF school.

‘AHMM are a practice at the top of their game’

‘It is not an expensive building but would not be possible under the Conservative’s Priority School Building Programme.’

Tom Dollard, head of sustainability, Pollard Thomas Edwards
‘I’m very happy for AHMM, and think it’s a well deserving winner. The project highlights how life enhancing schools can be built if the right money and process is provided by government. The current new school budgets pale into comparison, and it is a shame we are having to scrap around constantly ‘value engineering’ every school project to the reduced EFA standards.’ 

Toby Young, journalist and educationalist
“I hope the judges have taken the time to check this school is fit for purpose, unlike the Bexley Business Academy, which was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize in 2004. Among other problems with that school, which was designed by Norman Foster Associates and cost £31 million, the roof leaked, the electric gates got stuck, the changing rooms were too small and the designer toilets kept breaking. Still, at least it looked good.’ 

Richard Lavington of Maccreanor Lavington
‘This is a well-deserved award. It recognises a really great school that is the culmination of over a decade of work that AHMM have invested in delivering excellence in school design; in fact, I thought Westminster Academy would beat Accordia to the Stirling prize in 2008.

‘However, it is sad that this is one of the last projects from a period when the public sector was making serious long term investment in the renewal of the nation’s schools. When BSF was cancelled by the coalition in 2010, the impact on many schools was enormous.

Much of the current funding is a short-term, piece meal fix

‘Community schools are now struggling to make improvements or expand to meet increasing demand with the limited Priority School Building Programme funding. Much of the current funding is a short-term, piece meal fix that will cost more in the long term. A plan and funding for the country’s long term investment in schools is required.’

Paul Williams, co-founder, Stanton Williams
‘It’s fantastic that AHMM have finally been awarded the Stirling Prize, with a building that is clearly born out of a strong and close relationship between an enlightened client and a knowledgeable and experienced architect. For me, AHMM are one of the few architectural practices that have managed to grow in size and produce even better buildings.’

  • 1 Comment

Readers' comments (1)

  • Chris Roche

    An excellent and well deserved winner. School children are under so much pressure today to perform and achieve. This often results in a great deal of unhappiness and discontent.
    This award recognizes the importance of great architecture to lift spirits, enhance a love of learning, and encourages children to have a life-long love of the built environment - what more could you ask for?

    Chris Roche Founder 11.04

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