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Editorial

Britain's architectural diversity is celebrated in the 92 RIBA Awards 2008 winners... 

In December 2007 the Royal Institute of British Architects set out to find the best examples of new British based architecture to shortlist for the RIBA Awards 2008. Months have passed: judges up and down the Kingdom have been busy inspecting buildings, talking to clients and gathering feedback and finally on the 29th of May, the 92 winners from 14 regions were revealed.

The RIBA Awards are amongst the most prestigious annual architectural awards in the UK: they are national awards organised and judged on a regional basis in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland for exemplary completed projects. Each regional jury consists of a local architect, a lay assessor from various disciplines and the jury chair, a nationally renowned architect. The 14 different panels of judges assess design excellence irrespective of the style, size or complexity of a project, and take into account constraints of budget, brief and timetable. Awards are given for buildings that have high architectural standards and make a substantial contribution to the local environment.

Tony Chapman, RIBA Head of Awards told WAN he is satisfied with the consistent quality and variety of entries but overall he is disappointed with the decline in submissions as they have been steadily diminishing over the past four years. He attributes the decrease of entries to the majority of practices no longer tending to submit multiple projects to the same award but concentrating all their efforts on a sole entry.

Despite the decline in submissions this year for the first time in the history of 41 continuously running RIBA Awards all 14 regions in the UK have produced winners.

The RIBA London Awards were presented at a ceremony at The Young Vic, the 2007 RIBA London Building of the Year. Out of 131 entries a short list of 68 was selected, leading to 29 winners. A further five major London specific awards were announced:

The RIBA London Building of the Year is Westminster Academy at the Naim Dangoor Centre designed by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris. The RIBA London Special Award goes to The Sackler Crossingin the Royal Botanic Gardens, Kew, designed by John Pawson for its deceptive simplicity.

The RIBA London and Design for London Public Space Award was presented to the Royal Festival Hall , refurbished by Allies and Morrison, master planned by Rick Mather Associates and landscaped by Gross Max: the joint venture successfully managed to get back to the essence of the building and re-establish the Festival Hall as a major international venue.

Queen Mary University of London won the RIBA London and Design for London Client of the Year Award for Richard Feilden house , designed by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios and for their consistent approach to securing great design.

St Pancras Station , restored by Alastair Lansley (for Union Railways) won the RIBA London and English Heritage Award for a Building in an Historic Context: the jury felt the scale and complexity of the project demanded an exceptional response from all of those involved and that is exactly what this scheme delivered.

Will Alsop, RIBA London Patron, congratulated all the winners in saying : “RIBA London, together with Design for London and English Heritage is delighted to acknowledge the success of our architects working on projects large and small across the region. We wish our award winners every success in the national awards and Stirling Prize competition.”

The other projects awarded ranged from landmark buildings such as Wembley Stadium by Foster + Partners/ HOK Sport, Royal Observatory by Allies and Morrison to inspirational projects on a smaller scale in the community like Classroom of the Future by Gollifer Langston Architects, The Long House by Keith Williams Architects.

Naturally London being the capital generates a higher number of entries but this year the North West region followed with its regional record of 11 winning buildings. Many of these awards have been given to home grown talents and practices established within the North West. Roger Stephenson, Chair of RIBA North West, said: “We were delighted with the standard of the entries and firmly believe that the region can proudly boast of having some of the most exciting architecture in the UK today.”

Amongst the winners, the Hilton Tower in Manchester was praised for its distinctive slender profile, the Arena and Convention Centre (ACC) was recognised as a new landmark for the city, Manchester Civil Justice Centre was admired for its pioneering and inspirational role. In the neighbouring North East, the monolithic The Lifestyle Academy , part of Newcastle College, was one of the three regional winners.

In its entirety the awards aim to reflect the diversity of architectural practice by its members and mirror local contexts of style, scale and materials. The use of local style and materials becomes more apparent in some of the winning projects of RIBA Scotland where as mentioned by Arnie Dunn, President of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, Scottish architects who work within one of the most demanding climates in Europe are creating buildings which stand comparison with the very best in the UK.

Five winners were announced including the highly inspirational Todlaw Supported Housing by Oliver Chapman Architects and David Chipperfield Architects’ elegant and functional BBC Scotlandbuilding at Pacific Quay.

Belsize Architect, a small London based practice attracted the panel of judges of RIBA South with the harmonious reconstruction of the University College Boathouse in Oxford. Heatherwick Studio’s design team won an award for their East Beach Café in Littlehampton: the jury of RIBA South East appreciated its technical consistency, its durability and elegance. In the same region the Lightbox in Woking by Marks Barfield Architects charmed the jury panel with its commitment to energy conservation.

These very same 92 RIBA Award winners are now up for consideration for the RIBA National Awards scheduled for the 27th of June 2008 at London Hilton on Park Lane. From the resulting winners will be derived the nominees for the RIBA Stirling Prize which will take place on the 11th October 2008 at the Arena and Convention Centre (ACC) in Liverpool, and will be broadcast on Channel 4 on the 12th October 2008. The seats of the The Stirling Prize Jury will be occupied by: Ben van Berkel from UNStudio Netherlands, Shelley Mc Namara from Grafton Architects in Dublin, Kieran Long, Architects Journal Editor and Lauren Laverne, TV Presenter.

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