First the WAN AWARDS, now the Stirling Prize. This is the year for Stanton Williams
On Saturday 13 October, the 2012 RIBA Stirling Prize was awarded to London practice Stanton Williams for their Sainsbury Laboratory for the University of Cambridge. Official recognition as the building which has made the biggest contribution to British architecture this year, the Stirling Prize is presented annually by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) at a glamorous awards dinner, usually broadcast live to the general public. This year however, the rest of the world had to wait for media reports as this was the first time that the Stirling Prize announcement was not filmed for television purposes.
WAN’s Business Information Manager Caroline Stephens attended the ceremony in Manchester with Autodesk and was present to see the Stanton Williams team accept this treasured award. She details: “It was a great pleasure to accept the kind invitation to attend my first RIBA Stirling Prize award ceremony. Drinks and canapés were served in the wonderfully charismatic Victorian gothic Manchester Town Hall, from which we followed the RIBA-red balloons to the dinner venue, Manchester Central.
“Dinner was served around various presentations for the RIBA Lubetkin Prize and RIBA special awards; Stephen Lawrence Prize (Kings Grove by Duggan Morris Architects), RIBA Manser Medal (maison L by architecturespossibles) and RIBA Client of the Year (Olympic Delivery Authority). Excitement mounted as dessert was served and the announcement for the RIBA Stirling Prize winner grew imminent.
“The winner was unknown to Angela Brady, RIBA President as she opened the envelope and revealed the winner. For me, it was a pleasant and unexpected surprise that Stanton Williams’ Sainsbury Laboratory won; the people’s choice (and probably the majority of the public’s) was the London Olympic Stadium by Populous and the vibe in the architecture world was that The Hepworth, Wakefield by David Chipperfield Architects would win (this was voted to win by the Manchester Society of Architects).”
Joanna van Heyningen (RIBA Stirling Prize jury representative in Sir Nicholas Grimshaw’s absence), gushed that: “The laboratory is a sublime example of this building type. It has wonderful natural light and is a calm and beautiful space with the integration of the beautiful historic botanical gardens where Charles Darwin was mentored. The laboratory spaces had to be secure and private whilst the public space is served by a charming café.”
The Sainsbury Laboratory was up against stiff competition for this year’s prize, with The Hepworth Wakefield by David Chipperfield Architects, London Olympic Stadium by Populous, The Lyric Theatre by O’Donnell + Tuomey, Maggie’s Centre at Gartnavel by OMA and New Court by OMA with Allies and Morrison all vying for the title. Click here to watch Stanton Williams receive the 17th Stirling Prize.
Rated BREEAM Excellent, the 11,000 sq m science research centre at the University of Cambridge Botanic Garden has been sensitively inserted into its Grade II listed landscape setting, nestling quietly in the scenic foliage belonging to this prestigious institution. Establishing a balance between the functionality required by a scientific research laboratory and architectural excellence, Stanton Williams’ design harks back to the modernist qualities of Mies van der Rohe, the sharp lines and simple form offering an understated elegance to this contemporary masterpiece.
The Sainsbury Laboratory was completed in December 2010 and it is said that one must experience its interior first hand in order to comprehend the brilliance of its architectural design. This concentration on experience is clearly of great importance for the team at Stanton Williams as they explain: “The way in which the Laboratory's different functions are connected by a continuous route recalls the ‘thinking path' described by Charles Darwin (whose mentor, John Henslow, oversaw the laying out of the Botanic Garden), a way to reconcile nature and thought through the activity of walking. Here the ‘thinking path' is reinterpreted in the tradition of the monastic cloister or collegiate court as a space for reflection, debate and interaction that also enjoys good views of the Garden itself.”
The RIBA Stirling Prize judges said of their decision: “The Sainsbury Laboratory is a timeless piece of architecture, sitting within a highly sensitive site, one overlooking the woods where Darwin walked with his tutor and mentor Henslow, discussing the origin of species. In this project Stanton Williams and their landscape architects have created a new landscape, a courtyard which flows out into the botanical gardens. The project is both highly particular and specialised and at the same time a universal building type, taken to an extraordinary degree of sophistication and beauty.
“The project seems simple, and this hides the fact that it was a hugely difficult building to achieve. It needed to provide flexibility for future changes in scientific practice, and it has achieved this brilliantly. The building had to balance openness with stringent requirements for security, which was done by placing the laboratories on the first floor, together with their own meeting places.”
Now a medium-sized practice of 50, Stanton Williams was formed in 1985 by Alan Stanton and Paul Williams and has steadily grown into a highly respected force in the industry. With projects such as Hackney Marshes Centre and Eton Manor for the 2012 London Paralympics, the awards continue to flood in and WAN was delighted earlier this year when an experienced jury selected Stanton Williams’ New University of the Arts Campus at Central Saint Martins as the winner of our 2012 WAN AWARDS Education Sector.
Paul Williams also leant his design expertise to our inaugural World Architecture Day earlier this month by sitting on our Education panel, and opened the doors to the firm’s successful Central Saint Martins project for our evening drinks reception. Congratulations to all the team at Stanton Williams on a very worthy win!
AKTII were the Structural and Civil engineers and Luke Hughes and Company was appointed by and worked closely with the team to design and develop the bespoke designs for all the furniture in the building.