A Stirling effort

Tuesday 27 Jul 2010

RIBA announce shortlist for Stirling Prize

This year’s Stirling Prize shortlisted entries range dramatically in style and structure, from a ‘dramatic yet respectfully sedate’ art museum in Rome to an environmentally conscious secondary school that fully supports the growing theory that quality architecture can improve academic attainment. In their annual search for the ‘architect of the building which has made the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year’, the RIBA has unearthed some hidden gems and showcased a level of architectural design that demands recognition.

Neues Museum - David Chipperfield Architects with Julian Harrap Architects
After suffering extensive bombing during the Second World War, the ruins of Berlin’s Neues Museum lay dormant for many years, undergoing the occasional half-hearted resuscitation attempt by well-meaning enthusiasts. David Chipperfield Architects – working with Julian Harrap Architects – stepped in 1997, and after over ten years of extensive repair and restoration, the rejuvenated structure was opened to the public in late 2009. In contrast to many modern restoration projects, DCA concentrated their efforts on retaining continuity between the existing structural elements of the site and the newly-built sections. As such, the new exhibition rooms have been constructed using pre-fabricated concrete elements consisting of white cement mixed with Saxonian marble chips – a material which can also be found in the new main staircase of a majestic hall – in an effort to reflect the original without replicating it. Recycled handmade bricks have been implemented in the new Northwest wing, Egyptian Court, Apollo risalit, the apse in the Greek Courtyard and the South Dome in order to compliment the preserved sections of the museum. During the lengthy design process, David Chipperfield Architects were partially restricted by the concept of restoration, laid down by the Venice Charter. As such, the now completed structure echoes the original design by architect Friedrich August Stϋler yet introduces a contemporary flair with a continuity worthy of this prestigious prize.

MAXXI, National Museum of XXI Century Arts - Zaha Hadid Architects
In direct opposition of DCA’s quiet historical restoration is Zaha Hadid’s unashamedly grand design for MAXXI, National Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome. The modest traditional façade and perforated steel gates conceal a sensuously sinuous interior which houses over 350 contemporary art exhibits and 750,000 architectural drawings. Divided into two institutions – MAXXI Arte and MAXXI Architecture – the labyrinthine paths of Hadid’s monochrome construction lead to a range of exhibition spaces, as well as an auditorium, library, bookshop, cafeteria and laboratories. WAN’s Niki May Young visited the MAXXI on its completion in November. To read her first-hand account, click here.

Ashmolean Museum - Rick Mather Architects
Britain’s oldest public museum - the Ashmolen Museum in Oxford - has recently undergone an extensive expansion project, increasing its exhibition space by 100%. A £15m grant from the Heritage Lottery Fund along with additional financial support from a number of trusts, foundations and generous individual contributors, has enabled the completion of 39 new galleries, 4 temporary exhibition galleries, an education centre, state-of-the-art conservation studios and Oxford’s first rooftop restaurant -The Ashmolean Dining Room. Designed by Rick Mather Architects, the new addition is situated at the rear of the Greek revival building by Charles Robert Cockerell, built in 1845. Spread over six storeys, the modern structure has been designed to be environmentally aware with a concentration on the use of natural light, harnessed by large windows and roof lights. Based on the original axes of Cockerell’s original structure, Rick Mather Architects’ design provides a clearer and more logical route for visitors to the museum.

Bateman’s Row - Theis and Khan
As mixed-use developments come, Bateman’s Row in East London is somewhat small in scale. Theis and Khan’s design encompasses a range of facilities over six floors: a gallery at basement and ground floor level; an office on the first floor; three self-contained flats spread over the first and second floors; a family home above, topped with an attractive roof terrace. This amalgamation of commercial and residential space is quietly confident, mixing the sleek with the rustic with panache. Wide expanses of flush-fitting fixtures and a contemporary smooth finish are alternated with rough and robust edges, echoing soundly the industrial origins of the building’s location. Exposed concrete acts as a thermal store and is combined with a highly insulated envelope and solar panels in an effort to boost the environmentally-friendly factor of the design. As a result, Bateman’s Row has been awarded RIBA London Building of the Year 2010 and Mixed Use Regeneration Development at The Daily Telegraph British Homes Awards 2010.

Christ’s College Secondary SchoolDSDHA
Flying the flag for the effectiveness of architectural design on young minds is DSDHA’s design for Christ’s College School in Guildford. Previously the target of vandalism and failing grades, the school has made a remarkable recovery after its sprawling 1970s structure was replaced with a contemporary specialist facility, earning recognition from the DCSF as one of the most improved schools in England. Now a Specialist College for the Performing Arts, the school has achieved a strong focus previously lacking in its former shell. A central atrium greets all pupils, staff and visitors as they proceed through the single entranceway. The Sports Hall and Theatre have been key in helping the school achieve its specialised status, with the highest quality professional facilities installed for use by students as well as community groups and specialist clubs in the local area. A Chapel has also been integrated into the heart of the building, providing a dedicated space for individual development and group worship. Now heavily over-subscribed, Christ’s College Secondary School has benefitted in numerous ways from DSDHA’s cleverly formulated design. Senior Assistant Principal of Christ’s College, Paul Riley, explains: “[There has been] a huge, huge change in the behaviour of the students, a huge change in the academic proclivity of the students...Our children respect this building, we have no graffiti, we have almost zero litter…The kids have risen to the challenge of the building."

Clapham Manor Primary SchooldRMM
Another educational facility flourishing under a new identity is Clapham Manor Primary School. Courtesy of London-based firm dRMM, the Victorian Board School has recently been fitted with a colourful new wing, increasing the amount of learning space available whilst maximising play space – a key factor in an educational facility for young children. The polychromatic extension is pulled off the flank wall to sit parallel with the neighbouring Odd Fellows Hall. With a concentration on the environmental aspects of this build, dRMM have taken advantage of current technological advances, installing multiple features to reduce the school’s climatic effect. A transparent atrium separates the new section from the old and dark dingy corridors have been replaced by vibrant and stimulating informal spaces with visual transparency.

Named after British architect James Stirling, the RIBA Stirling Prize carries a jackpot of £20,000 and is run in association with The Architects' Journal and Benchmark. The prize will be awarded on a special live edition of BBC Two’s The Culture Show on Saturday 2nd October 2010 at 6.30pm.

Sian Disson
News Editor

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