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RIBA Awards winners 2014: Public

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This year 17 public projects have won RIBA National Awards

It all started with Friedrich Schinkel’s Altes Museum, when its entrance was violently ripped out. Standing in this space, a feeling of emptiness ensues as if this uncanny void no longer belonged to the body of the museum - the city has taken it and consumed it within its own body, the public realm. It is at this very moment that the architect, who until now was the master of his space, senses vulnerability, a loss of control.

In homage to the Altes Museum, Stirling crafted the Staatsgalerie in Stuttgart around a circular void that is virtually invisible to its interior functions as a museum. In fact, from its rear, one merely chances upon this route. If one were to be so lucky to find this gap, one would find oneself slipping around the circular void, emerging onto Konrad-Adenauer-Strasse without even noticing the absence of an entrance into the museum (it is hidden behind a pavilion to one side of the route). The circular, drum-like space which, in Schinkel’s Altes Museum still occupied the centre of his museum, a space from which, along its cardinal axes, the U-shaped enfilade of galleries can be entered upon, is now unroofed and visible only from this urban route. It is as if, like the Altes Museum entrance, it had been wrenched away from the architect and consumed by the city.

The Centre Pompidou has a strong geometric building form set into the organic streets of Paris. The museum’s traditional plinth, which throughout history has elevated the noblest of temples, objectifying them, almost detaching them from the city as rarefied architectural objects, is here inverted, not elevated but sunken into the ground, transforming what was originally the countenance of the stoic temple facade into a screen of fleeting images, an outdoor theatre, in which the interior space of the theatre has been taken by the city’s own network of rooms.

Of course not all public buildings are urban. At Le Corbusier’s church at Ronchamp, the interior space of the chapel is compressed by the excessively exaggerated mass of the roof and a heavily concave wall as if to squeeze what little is left of the chapel out of its imploded body.

It’s only when outside in this wonderful landscape that the thought occurs: why attend mass inside when you can do it outside? On the opposite side of the concave wall is a bigger apse where the real altar would sit. This, together with the hills, make up the ‘exterior’ chapel, three of whose four walls are mountains.

The real joy of these buildings I have mentioned is their almost-exiled spaces, which cross over between what belongs to the figure and what has been almost confiscated by the city. The Staatsgalerie could function without the drum, the Centre Pompidou need not depress its plinth and one altar would have served the church at Ronchamp, but how less rich they and architecture would be.

Róisín Heneghan, director, Heneghan Peng Architects

TNG Youth and Community Centre, Lewisham by RCKa


This building has many virtues. It is both democratic and flexible, serving as a community resource in a deprived area of London. Both its brief and its design were the products of extensive public consultation. Internally, a cross-laminated timber structural frame conveys both warmth and spatially dynamism. Despite a savage bout of value engineering, it is crisply detailed and displays a high level of control of exposed services. A very mature piece of work from a very young practice.

Client - Private
Contractor - Mansell (now Balfour Beatty)
Contract value - Undisclosed
Gross internal area - 1,200m²
Region - London South

Everyman Theatre, Liverpool by Haworth Tompkins


In the selection of materials and the considered details the architect has created a building that instinctively you want to reach out and touch. However, none of the elements shouts out, they simply add to the whole, amplifying this exceptional piece of architecture. This is a building that will age gracefully, continually enriched by the patina of daily use. It will both reassure and delight its loyal audience and those discovering this gem for the first time. (AJ 28.03.14)

Client - The Liverpool and Merseyside Theatres Trust
Contractor - Gilbert-Ash
Contract value - £13.3 million
Gross internal area - 4,300m²
Region - North West

The Library of Birmingham by Mecanoo


The new Library of Birmingham is an impressive and bold addition to the city. It is a world-class facility with formal and informal spaces for reading, relaxing, playing and participating in the library’s programme of events. It has transformed Centenary Square from an interim space to a vibrant city destination. It has also changed the traditional perception of a library to a place where families and readers can spend a whole day learning and engaging. (AJ 27.09.13)

Client - Birmingham City Council
Contractor - Carillion
Contract value - £186 million
Gross internal area - 35,000m²
Region - West Midlands

King’s Cross Station redevelopment by John McAslan + Partners


This project brings a Grade I-listed structure up to a standard that meets the demands of a 21st-century transport hub. The spatial reorganisation is logical and effective and the new canopy to the west an engineering triumph. It is what a conservation project should be: a careful and sympathetic restoration to existing fabric, clever re-use of lost spaces and modern interventions that are clearly of their time. (AJ 12.07.12)

Client - Network Rail
Contractor - Kier/Laing O’Rourke Costain jv/Vinci
Contract value - £547 million
Gross internal area - 31,254m²
Region - London North

JW3 by Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands


JW3 (top right) is a secular community centre that respects Jewish traditions and comprises a restaurant, auditorium, cinema, meeting rooms and a nursery. The building appears to be simple; however it is very sophisticated and well-resolved, both conceptually and in its detail. It is beautifully crafted using a restrained, rich palette of materials, the bronze balustrading and anodising gives a real sense of solidity and quality, everything that you touch feels considered and crafted. (AJ 24.01.14)

Client - JCC Ventures
Contractor - BAM Construction
Contract value - Undisclosed
Gross internal area - 4,971m²
Region - London North

Poole Harbour Second Crossing by Wilkinson Eyre


Known as the Twin Sails Bridge, the opening leaves of this double bascule bridge (above) are split diagonally, which means that, as it rises, the furthest cantilevered part tapers to nothing. Once up, they present two giant triangles in the sky, which look like passing yachts. These are formed as monocoque structures in Cor-ten steel. To the outer edges, a grid forms the pedestrian walkways, cantilevered to provide elegantly thin leading edges.

Client - Poole Borough Council
Contractor - Hochtief Construction
Contract value - £11.9 million
Gross internal area - 2,825m²
Region - South West

The Wilson Cheltenham Art Gallery and Museum by Berman Guedes Stretton


This building (above) is planned with a striking clarity, with a stack of galleries hovering above a public ground floor space that houses tourist and gallery information. The gallery spaces are simple and clear and there has been an incredible attention to detail. Each floor aligns with those of the larger adjoining building, creating easy links to secondary spaces.
 A top-class new gallery that makes a complicated building look easy.

Client - Cheltenham Borough Council
Contractor - ISG
Contract value - £4.5 million
Gross internal area - 1,294m²
Region - South West

Seizure Gallery, Yorkshire Sculpture Park, Wakefield by Adam Khan Architects


This new gallery (top left) re-frames Roger Hiorns’ celebrated artwork in a new context, exploring issues of the sublime, the picturesque and the failure of utopian housing projects. Essentially it’s a storage shed. However, the reading simultaneously recalls ancient Neolithic tombs and workaday farm buildings; it’s a beguiling combination of precious ark and utility bunker, perfect for the artwork. (AJ 14.02.14)

Client - Arts Council Collection
Contractor - Wood Mitchell Construction
Contract value - £148,000
Gross internal area - 150m²
Region - Yorkshire

London Aquatics Centre by Zaha Hadid Architects


This world-class building with a distinctive curvaceous form (above) was a fitting backdrop for the 2012 Olympic Games. It was designed as both an Olympic venue and, in legacy, as a public swimming pool; and has proved successful in both scenarios. There were exceptionally complex site constraints, which were resolved with deceptive ease. Its pure and powerful form is conceptually flawless and it will be a favourite venue for Londoners for generations to come. (AJ 18.08.11)

Client - Olympic Delivery Authority
Contractor - Balfour Beatty
Contract value - Undisclosed
Gross internal area - 20,264m² (post-Games)
Region - London East

Britten Pears Archive, Aldeburgh, Suffolk by Stanton Williams


The clarity and elegance of the building form belies the complex brief and the specialised demands made of this archive, where both flood risk and environmental control are key considerations. The red brick skin wraps a protective and beautifully finished concrete structure, which in the interior is offset with refined timber details for furniture and fittings. Every element is considered and resolved to create a comfortable, refined and holistic building.

Client - Britten-Pears Foundation
Contractor - RG Carter
Contract value - £2 million
Gross internal area - 540m²
Region - East

Tate Britain, Millbank Project by Caruso St John Architects


This project makes important changes and improvements to Tate Britain through intelligent and sensitively conceived transformations. At the centre is a new spiral stair under the main entrance dome that has been treated in a manner that provokes strong reactions. The stair challenges normal preconceptions about the nature of contemporary architecture.For the RIBA Awards jury, the result is a success and it is certainly welcomed and liked by the client. (AJ 24.01.14)

Client - Tate
Contractor - Lend Lease
Contract value - £23 million
Gross internal area - 6,600m²
Region - London West

Brent Civic Centre, London by Hopkins Architects


Brent Civic Centre brings together into one building all the civic functions associated with the local authority. The strong cubic form will serve as a stabilising element within the surrounding area as new projects emerge. The building’s materials consistently express their structural function. To have achieved this kind of architectural dialogue within a building of this complexity and at a very reasonable cost is no small task. (AJ 01.08.13)

Client - Brent Council
Contractor - Skanska
Contract value - Undisclosed
Gross internal area - 40,000m²
Region - London West

Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft, East Sussex by Adam Richards Architects


This museum is consummately conceived and crafted and its ambience in the finest detail reflects the essence of the Arts and Craft history it exhibits - the experience of the exhibits is informed by the building and vice versa. The building is an exquisite experience where the brilliant marriage of the client and architect’s combined sophistication and dedication has created an uplifting public treasure. (AJ 18.10.13)

Client - Ditchling Museum of Art and Craft
Contractor - Westridge Construction
Contract value - £1.1 million
Gross internal area - 580m²
Region - South East

Police Service of Northern Ireland Memorial Garden by Hall McKnight


Hall McKnight has evocatively dealt with a complex brief to design a commemorative and contemplative space for the Police Service of Northern Ireland. Oak panelled walls and beech hedges delineate a route to a pavilion clad in dark, back-enamelled glass. This offers a contemplative outdoor room. This is an exceptional commemorative space, which radiates a great sense of peace, dignity and stillness.

Client - Private
Contractor - Maurice Flynn
Contract value - Undisclosed
Gross internal area - 496m²
Region - Northern Ireland

The Novium, Chichester by Keith Williams Architects


This is a prominent public building with a complex programme designed to celebrate Roman hypocaust ruins on the site. It has been elegantly delivered and adds considerable value. The exhibitions have a vibrancy which read well within the building and the curators appear well-placed to provide further stimulating exhibitions. It is difficult to achieve any kind of modern architecture in Chichester and the client and architect are to be warmly commended. (AJ 30.08.12)

Client - Chichester District Council
Contractor - Vinci Construction UK
Contract value - £4 million
Gross internal area - 1,300m²
Region - South East

St George’s Chapel, Great Yarmouth by Hopkins Architects


This chapel has been renovated for contemporary communal uses that include an elegantly crafted café and ticket office. The conservation approach is sympathetic and effective in transforming the functions of the space by careful and minimal interventions and insertions to meet acoustic, lighting, technological and audience criteria. The new café makes reference to the chapel in its form and materiality.

Client - Great Yarmouth Borough Council
Contractor - RG Carter
Contract value - Undisclosed
Gross internal area - 880m²
Region - East

Mary Rose Museum, Portsmouth by Wilkinson Eyre with Pringle Brandon Perkins+Will


Set in Portsmouth’s historic dockyards, this contemporary building is distinctive and striking. It houses a precious gem in a specially crafted jewellery box with a very clever internal layout. It creates a unique setting for the Mary Rose experience with its bespoke showcases, lighting and educational facilities. The artefacts and exhibition pieces take centre stage and create a very special user atmosphere. (AJ 06.06.13)

Client - Mary Rose Trust
Contractor - Bouygues
Contract value - Undisclosed
Gross internal area - 5,133m²
Region - South

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Its wonderful to see such a diversity of practices winning awards for public architecture of astounding quality and style. The Award judging is becoming increasingly astute and aware of the skills showcased in a wide range of projects - very exciting indeed!

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