Newport Street Gallery wins 2016 RIBA Stirling Prize

New public gallery for Damien Hirst’s private collection hailed as a work of art in itself

by Gail Taylor 07 October 2016
  • Prudence Cummings Associates Click image to expand

    Prudence Cummings Associates

  • Prudence Cummings Associates Click image to expand

    Prudence Cummings Associates

  • Prudence Cummings Associates Click image to expand

    Prudence Cummings Associates

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    The Newport Street Gallery by Caruso St John has won the coveted 2016 RIBA Stirling Prize for the UK’s best new building. The winning entry saw off stiff competition from five other shortlisted projects: Blavatnik School of Government by Herzog & de Meuron; City of Glasgow College, Riverside Campus by Michael Laird Architects & Reiach and Hall Architects; Outhouse by Loyn & Co Architects; Trafalgar Place by dMRR Architects, and Weston Library by WilkinsonEyre

    Newport Street Gallery has involved the conversion of almost an entire street in south London into a free public gallery for artist Damien Hirst’s private art collection. The street faces a railway line in Vauxhall and its three listed Victorian industrial buildings, formerly carpentry and scenery painting workshops for West End theatres, have been remodelled and flanked at either end by entirely new buildings; one with a striking, spiky saw-tooth roof. 

    The new additions have a specially created hard pale red brick finish to closely reference the original buildings, while a huge LED panel on the railway façade encourages passing train commuters to visit. The ground and upper floors within the interconnected five buildings are continuous, with new spiral staircases on their side, to create flexible spaces able to accommodate everything from individual works to larger shows. 

    Commenting on Newport Street Gallery, the judges said: “This highly accomplished and expertly detailed art gallery is a bold and confident contribution to the best of UK architecture. Caruso St John’s approach to conservation is irreverent yet sensitive and achieves a clever solution that expresses a poetic juxtaposition of old and new.

    “The collection of buildings is beautifully curated, pulled together by the use of brick yet still expressive of their individuality. The playful use of LED technology gives a contemporary addition to the façade. 

    “Internally, the five buildings are connected as a continuous and coherent sequence of light filled gallery spaces. The simple and logical circulation is enlivened by exquisitely detailed and sensuous staircases.”

    Speaking at yesterday’s awards ceremony, RIBA President Jane Duncan commented: “With Newport Street Gallery, Damien Hirst has made an exceptional contribution to the UK’s strong history of private patronage of architecture. Not only has Damien opened up his enviable private art collection to the world, but he has commissioned a real work of art to house it in.”

    Peter St John, Partner at Caruso St John Architects added: “It's rare for architects to be given the opportunity to realise a personal vision of the quality of the Newport Street Gallery, and for that vision to have a generous public dimension. We see the building as a palace for direct, intimate and luxurious encounters with contemporary art, and we are very pleased that this award will bring more people to see this extraordinary collection.”

    This is the first time Caruso St John architects have won the RIBA Stirling Prize; they were shortlisted for the award for Brick House, west London in 2006 and New Art Gallery Walsall in 2000.

    Gail Taylor

    Features Editor

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