The AJ’s architecture editor Rob Wilson takes a candid look at this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist
There are some very fine schemes on this year’s Stirling shortlist, but it’s difficult to get too excited in toto by the jury’s choice of six.
A more highly sauced shortlist from the RIBA National Awards could, after all, have included Stephenson Studio’s sculptural Stoller Hall for Chetham’s School of Music with its early Modernist echoes, AHMM’s fine retrofit at New Scotland Yard, or even a bit of retail in Acme’s robustly crafted Victoria Gate Arcades.
The Tate-shaped hole in the shortlist is not so surprising, given that Herzog & de Meuron’s nuanced ‘nu-municipal’ façade mainly seems to cover an inflated lift lobby for a (still annoyingly slow) set of lifts and stairs serving a viewing platform.
The one institutional big-beast scheme included is Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners’ finely resolved World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre at the British Museum. For once this is a major extension that acts very well-manneredly like an extension – although one that itself had problems with its truck lift, a significant teething problem given that efficient art-handling should be its bread and butter.
A bold choice though is Hastings Pier by dRMM – a rare nod to public spacemaking. The decision to leave most of this as an open platform is poetic, and enables accommodation of the pop-up or performance staples of today. But now it’s on the Stirling shortlist, one can’t help wonder (having known the old fairground-look structure of Hastings Pier) whether this was a missed opportunity for dRMM to have bit more fun and make a more ‘constructive’ attempt to interpret seaside architecture for the 21st century than the single well-mannered visitor centre they included.
Housing seems a little under-represented. Not that Amin Taha with Groupwork’s Barrett’s Grove is not a top-notch piece of architecture – providing beautiful living spaces inside, be it a bit too toytown on the outside. But it would have been good to have seen one of the more socially or sustainably significant models that populated the National Awards – Haworth Tompkins’ Silchester scheme for example.
Two I’d expected on the list are thankfully included. There’s 6a architects’ finely tuned studio for Juergen Teller (and expect the same practice’s materially-rich Cowan’s Court student housing to be lining up for honours in next year’s awards). My favourite to win though is Reiach and Hall and Michael Laird Architects’ City of Glasgow College, City Campus (pictured below), and on so many counts: for what it does urbanistically, socially and architecturally, and at scale, in what is literally a small city of a building.
city of glasgow college entrance city campus ©keith hunter