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UK Pavilion at World Expo 2010 in Shanghai wins RIBA Lubetkin Prize


29 June 2010

Press office contact:

Beatrice Cooke
T: +44 (0)207 307 3813
E: beatrice.cooke@riba.org

The UK Pavilion at the World Expo 2010 in Shanghai by Heatherwick Studio has scooped the Royal Institute of British Architects’ (RIBA) prestigious RIBA Lubetkin Prize for the most outstanding work of international architecture by an RIBA member. The UK’s pavilion at the Shanghai Expo, named the ‘Seed Cathedral’, is constructed from 60,000 7.5 metre long slender acrylic tipped aluminum rods suspended in a timber frame which sits upon a landscaped area designed to look like a creased piece of paper. The long rods, which quiver in the breeze, create an effect which has been likened to a dandelion and a sea urchin.

The presentation of the RIBA Lubetkin Prize, supported by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI), will took place on Tuesday 29 June at the Royal Institute of British Architects’ headquarters in London. Winners of an RIBA International Award and of RIBA Awards in the European Union also received their awards at the ceremony.

The UK Pavilion beat off stiff competition from two other shortlisted buildings: Timberyard Social Housing, Dublin by O’Donnell and Tuomey and the Anchorage Museum at Rasmuson Centre, Alaska by David Chipperfield Architects.

Speaking about the building, the RIBA Lubetkin Prize jury chair and RIBA President, Ruth Reed said:

'The RIBA Lubetkin Prize is an important prize as it epitomises how international the business of architecture is. Many architects are as well-known for their overseas work as they are for what they have done in their own country and in some cases, more so. This year’s shortlist represents some of the most innovative architecture of the decade so picking a winner was more difficult than ever. Congratulations to Heatherwick Studio for their first Lubetkin win with an outstanding emblem for Britain and its architecture amongst its peers in Shanghai. We would also like to extend our thanks once again to UK Trade and Investment for supporting the award.'

The three shortlisted buildings were seen by a visiting jury comprising Paul Monaghan, architect and Chair of the RIBA Awards Group and Tony Chapman, RIBA Head of Awards, who reported to the full jury chaired by RIBA President Ruth Reed and including architect Keith Williams and Paul Finch, OBE, editorial director of The Architects’ Journal and chair of CABE.

The prize is named after the world-renowned architect Berthold Lubetkin (1901-1990). The winner will be presented with a unique cast concrete plaque, based loosely on Lubetkin’s design for the Penguin Pool at London Zoo, commissioned by the RIBA and designed and made by the artist Petr Weigl.

Notes to editors

Notes to editors:

1. For further information and images contact Beatrice Cooke in the RIBA Press Office, 020 7307 3813 or beatrice.cooke@inst.riba.org.

2. The prize is named in honour of Berthold Lubetkin, the Georgia-born architect who worked in Paris before coming to London in the 1930s to establish the influential Tecton Group. He is best known for the two Highpoint apartment blocks in Highgate and the Penguin Pool at London Zoo.

3. The RIBA Lubetkin Prize is supported by UK Trade & Investment (UKTI). UK Trade & Investment is the Government's international business development organisation. It helps UK companies succeed in the global economy. We also help overseas companies bring their high quality investment to the UK’s economy – acknowledged as Europe’s best place from which to succeed in global business. UKTI offers expertise and contacts through its extensive network of specialists in the UK, and in British embassies and other diplomatic offices around the world. We provide companies with the tools they require to be competitive on the world stage. www.uktradeinvest.gov.uk

4. The RIBA Trust manages the cultural assets of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), including the internationally recognised collections of the British Architectural Library. It is the UK’s national architecture centre, delivering the RIBA Awards and RIBA Stirling Prize (broadcast on BBC Two); the Royal Gold Medal; International and Honorary Fellowships; RIBA partnership in architecture festivals such as the forthcoming London Festival of Architecture; and a full programme of lectures, exhibitions, tours and other events; and an education programme.

5. The cast concrete Lubetkin Trophy is designed and made by artist Petr Weigl. For more information on his work go to www.petrweigl.com

6. Full citation follows:

RIBA Lubetkin Prize 2010 - UK Pavilion, Shanghai Expo 2010

Shanghai, China

Architect: Heatherwick Studio

Client: FCO

Contractor: Mace International

Structural Engineer: Adams Kara Taylor

Environmental Engineer: Atelier Ten

Contact Value: £13.5m

Date of Occupation: May 2010

Gross internal area: 1500 sq m

60,000 fibre optic rods, each 7.5 metres long, each containing a seed, make up the Seed Cathedral – the UK’s pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010. The seeds come from the Kunming Institute of Botany, China’s equivalent of the UK’s Millennium Seed Bank (part of the UK’s Royal Botanic Gardens). Set on a prime 6,000 square metre plot by the Huangpu River, it takes its inspiration from crumpled paper (in fact it is glass fibre whose pale grey with a red fleck picks up on the colours of the pavilion itself) and which acts as a space for public events during the Expo. It is also a place of rest and relative calm amid the hubbub of the remainder of the site: people sit in their hundreds on the ‘grass’ – something they cannot do anywhere else in China – and stare in wonder at the Seed Cathedral.

Heatherwick Studio’s architectural response to this interesting brief is at once subtle and showy. Subtle in that, unlike most of the 239 other pavilions, this one is not full of throbbing video screens and flashing lights; showy in that by day it resembles a giant sea urchin whose spines suck the daylight inside; by night the LED light sources are activated and it glows, enticing visitors in. A prettier and perhaps more appropriate analogy is of a dandelion seed-head flitting across the ground. It makes a subtle, rather than overt, statement about the inspiration and value of our natural environment. Even the three exhibitions embedded in the overhang of the pavilion’s base marking the route to and from the Seed Cathedral are more playful than didactic. But what is so special about the pavilion is the way the outside is carried through to the inside - it’s one idea, one material and all the more powerful for it: the building is its content, the content is the building. This kind of claim is normally an empty conceit but the artist in Thomas Heatherwick makes it work. He also avoided the common problem of many exhibition structures: nice building, shame about the contents. This is low-tech, monochrome and silent: a powerful under-statement about the United Kingdom.



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