Six of the best

Six of the best

Nick Ames looks at the contenders for one of the world’s leading architectural awards – with five of the six shortlisted designs making a first showing.

Six new building designs will be battling it out over the next few weeks for the keenly-contested Stirling Prize.

A castle, a chapel, a university and a natural landscape visitor-centre are competing with two housing developments for construction and design’s highest accolade from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Judging is currently taking place across the UK with the winner to be announced at a glittereing awards ceremony on September 26.

The shortlist features the reinvention of the 1960s Sheffield housing block Park Hill, a striking suburban Essex housing development in the new town of Harlow, called Newhall Be, a holiday home within the burnt-out shell of 12th century Astley Castle, Warwickshire, the beautifully crafted Bishop Edward King Chapel, Oxfordshire, the dramatic Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre and the sculptured but practical University of Limerick Medical School and its accompanying student housing.

RIBA is working in partnership with the BBC on the 2013 awards with The Architects’ Journal as trade media partner.

This year, five of the six practices are on the list for the first time, beating-off competition from previous winners including Sir David Chipperfield and Zaha Hadid.

It is also the first year in the prize’s 18 year history that half of the shortlisted firms have women at the helm – Alison Brooks Architects, Grafton Architects and heneghan peng – amother move praised by organisers.

The six architecture practices competing for this year’s title, their odds according to bookmakers William Hil, together with RIBA’s descriptions are: Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, Northern Ireland by heneghan peng architects.

William Hill odds: 3/1 “Breaks the mould of the traditional visitor-centre that tends to hide from the limelight or make a statement, this highly imaginative and sculptural piece of ‘land art’ offers visitors an experience that is physical and interactive, like the causeway itself.” Park Hill Phase 1, Sheffield by Hawkins\Brown with Studio Egret West.

William Hill odds: 9/1 “Reinvention of the 1960s housing estate. The structure of the buildings remained in place whilst key features were changed – interior layout, windows, security and much more.  It stands as a beacon for imaginative regeneration, quality mass housing and the bold reuse of a listed building.” Newhall Be, Harlow by Alison Brooks Architects.

William Hill odds: 3/1 “The radical re-thinking of the shape and interior of the UK house is tackled masterfully with these 84 new homes in suburban Essex that clearly illustrate that good design quality and committed developers can transform lives.” Astley Castle, Nuneaton, Warwickshire by Witherford Watson Mann Architects.

William Hill odds: 6/1 “Beautiful contemporary holiday home installed in the ruined walls of a 12th century manor. Unique example of the recovery of an ancient building – it is a prototype for a bold new attitude to restoration and reuse.” University of Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects.

William Hill odds: 6/1 “Exceptional example of how to create a vibrant new public space through the careful design and placement of buildings. High-quality, beautiful and dramatic buildings that punch far above their rock-bottom budget.” Bishop Edward King Chapel, Ripon College, Oxfordshire by Niall McLaughlin Architects.

William Hill odds:  9/4 “An uplifting spiritual space of great potency that the client has described as ‘what we dreamed of but didn’t think we would get’.”

The RIBA panel emphasise that while the six shortlisted buildings range dramatically in size and purpose, all will be judged by the same criteria – their design excellence and their significance to the evolution of architecture and the built environment as well as looking stunning.

Angela Brady, RIBA President, said: “The RIBA Stirling Prize is awarded to the building that has made the biggest contribution to the evolution of architecture, and nowhere is the need for fresh-thinking needed more than in housing.

“The UK is blighted with unimaginative, poor quality houses that people don’t want to live in but have little other choice, so I am delighted to see two amazing and highly original housing projects on this year’s shortlist.

“These projects show how, when talented architects and clients work together and focus on quality, affordable and desirable new homes can be created. They shine a light on what the future of UK housing can be.

“All six shortlisted projects are ground-breaking in their own way – buildings that deliver more than could have been expected.

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