The RIBA Stirling Prize has just been awarded, along with credit given to a number of new buildings in the UK. So it got me thinking, what makes an award winning piece of architecture?
We have won both architectural and business awards. Yet is there a formula to achieve acknowledgement of quality work? Or is it down to sheer luck, being the right place at the right time? My instincts tell me both attributes are integral to realising award winning architecture.
Good architectural projects are about redefining architectural excellence, and paving a pathway for new innovations and developments within the field. The building which won the RIBA Stirling Prize Award is the Damien Hirst owned Newport Street Gallery by Caruso St. John Architects.
Let's look at the composition:
1. Heritage Architecture Mixed With Modern Elements
A terrace of listed industrial buildings combined with two new buildings, one at each end of the existing volume. The existing buildings are sensitively preserved in their form and materialisation - the new buildings, take a twist on the original materials and colours, and present a modern tectonic, providing a clear narrative of excellence along Newport Street.
2. A Bold Statement
The architectural concept is a bold statement. The twisting vertical staircases rise throughout the building to tall internal volumes, which are flooded with light and natural ventilation. The internal spaces are just as expressive as the external new building forms.
3. Building Excellence
The construction technique is excellent. The Architects have done an very good job at integrating the structural and M&E elements. The builders have delivered brilliant craftsmanship, and interpretation of the Architect's instructions. The material choice is minimal and simple.
4. Public Wellbeing
The building is a public building, with access to all. It will have a significant impact on those who live and work in the area, by impacting on property prices and raising the profile of the area, and therefore, improve the wellbeing of those who are nearby.
These are the factors which have won Caruso St. John Architects their first RIBA Stirling Prize Award. They had a devote client, one which was ambitious, and resolute to create a building of excellence. The Architects had previous experience in art gallery design, and their portfolio helped to provide them with securing the commission.
But what do you think? All the factors above have certainly created a beautiful aesthetic, interpretation of materials and architectural form, but ultimately, it is the visitors experience and quality of space, views, noise and comfort, which should determine the standard of excellence which provides the benchmark to rank architectural design and construction.
This is my conclusion which should guide and direct a building's success. The use of its space will always have a lasting impact on its users. A quiet, warm and intimate space, will always provide more, "comfort" to the majority of consumers than a large echoing cold hall. Therefore, it is the consumer's comfort that should always drive these spaces of architectural excellence. The consumers level of comfort should be at the forefront of the Architect's mind, and (s)he should not be satisfied, until these factors are executed to a standard of brilliance.
The Newport Street Gallery opened in the Autumn of 2015 and won the RIBA Stirling Prize in October 2016. Pay a visit, and let me know if your experience correlates with my thoughts.