International building citations

RIBA Lubetkin Prize 2009 – Winner and shortlist citations





National Stadium Beijing – LUBETKIN WINNER

Beicheng East Road, Chaoyang District, People' Republic of China


Architect: Herzog & de Meuron

Executive Architects: China Architectural Design & Research Group

 Arup Sport

 Ove Arup & Partners Hong Kong

Artistic Advisor: Ai Weiwei

Client: Zhejiang Joyon Real Estate Co Ltd

Contractor: CSCEC (China State Construction & Engineering Corporation)

Structural Engineer: China Architectural Design & Research Group

Services Engineer: China Architectural Design & Research Group

Landscape Architect: Herzog & de Meuron

Contract Value: £217m

Date of completion: May 2008

Gross internal area: 258,000 sq m


Few buildings that have received the worldwide attention that this one has can live up to the hype – this one assuredly can. What can appear to be over-complicated in two dimensions becomes a thing of great subtlety in three dimensions. It is the result of a complex but hugely successful collaboration between Herzog & de Meuron, the China Architectural Design & Research Group, Arup Sport, Ove Arup & Partners' Hong Kong office and the artist Ai Weiwei who played a key role in the initial concept.


The sports stadium is one of the oldest building types known to mankind, and on the surface at least, one of the simplest. And yet to match the power of the spectacle is as hard as it is apparently simple. This building, the main stadium for the 2008 Beijing Olympics, has already earned its place as one of the most iconic of its type anywhere. If the trend in seminal modern stadia design was to break down the apparent separation of the perimeter exterior with the playing field inside, as seen memorably in Renzo Piano's Bari stadium of the late-1980s, via the act of cutting gaps into the encircling form; here the trick is subtler, the skin still more porous. Internally, the continuity of the bowl is maintained, whereas the entire perimeter skin is dissolved into an irregular and seemingly random lattice of steel beams. By day the building appears as a birds' nest - famed for making exotic Chinese soup - while at night its inner bowl glows out in hot red colours. Form does not always follow function : the concrete inner lattice which supports the bowl is clad in steel, to match the outer steel frame which supports the roof, but there are aesthetic justifications aplenty for this. And the structure also sets up constantly changing views both into and out of the stadium. And for all the environmental cost of the steel, elsewhere its sustainable credentials are good. There are arrays of solar panels above the entrance and the natural ventilation, which draws air through the building via the stack effect, works well, with the stands and the corridors connecting them pleasantly cool on the very hot day the judges visited. And most of the seats are effectively shaded by the ETFE/PTFE roof.


Already much anticipated ever since the initial design images were published, the stadium as finished is breathtaking. As watched on millions, perhaps even billions, of television screens around the world during last year's Olympic ceremonies, the building deploys the representational power of architecture to show how sporting activities can be framed memorably in a given place. Interestingly the owners are now making more money from the 30,000 visitors who come to wander through the stadium every day than they did from spectators during the Olympics. As with the Watercube, that is the legacy for the time being – there has been only one event there in the first 10 post-Olympic months, though they were setting up for a concert when the judges visited. At one level the National Stadium in Beijing is like every other stadium, and yet it remains defiantly unique.  


Unsurprisingly perhaps the stadium produced a lively debate among the final judges. Olympic projects are very much one-offs: for some they are a chance to push out the architectural boat, to show, literally, to the world what architects can do – in much the same way Frei Otto and Günter Behnisch did with their Munich Stadium in 1972. For others they are a platform to demonstrate the social and environmental responsibility of architects. In the end the judges decided to award the National Stadium Beijing the prize for what it is, not to deny it the prize for what it is not. But whichever line you take this is still one of the most captivating and moving buildings of its generation, one which will inspire future generations of architects.  And it is a triumphant and compelling work of the imagination and its delivery a feat of determination on the part of both architects and engineers. This is a Coliseum for the 21st century that could be around for along as that has been: as such and in terms of lifetime costing it may well prove to be good value indeed.      




Beijing Capital International Airport Terminal 3

Chaoyang District, Beijing, People's Republic of China


Architect: Foster + Partners

Executive Architect: NACO


 Beijing Institute of Architectural Design

Client: Beijing Capital International Airport Company

Contractor: Beijing City Construction Company

Structural Engineer: Arup

Services Engineer: Arup

Quantity Surveyor: David Langdon

Lighting Consultant: Speirs and Major

Landscape Architect: Michel Desvigne

Contract Value: £10 b RMB (£602m)

Date of completion: August 2008

Gross internal area: 1,300,000,000 sq m


The building is vast — 1.3m square metres: indeed it is one of the largest, most complicated buildings ever built. It was also commissioned, designed and constructed in just five years, less time than it took for Heathrow's Terminal 5 to get planning permission. But maybe that's the price of democracy. That Foster + Partners has managed, despite its scale and the infamous complexity of airport buildings, to make this one both look and, more importantly, feel like one of the simplest is a testimony to its success. An airport's 'user experience' is becoming increasingly important as they come to play a key role in attracting investment to cities and countries; this one is a joy to use. Whether moving from plane to taxi out front, or vice versa, the building is simple to use, with circulation instinctive; getting lost in such a linear, conveyor-belt-like building is hard.

This is essentially the same 'shed' design that Foster reinvented at Stansted, nodding to air travel architecture's simpler origins, with terminals as tents. Here the sheds are two Y-shaped main spaces — T3A for domestic flights, T3B for international — three and a quarter kilometres apart, connected at their ends.   An overground train whisks passengers from departures to their gates in no time at all. The length maximises perimeter space for docking planes, and makes navigation simple. You go one way, or the other. Departures and arrivals are one above the other, housed in an internal structure independent of the external envelope.  Throughout, visual and circulatory clarity is maintained, natural light and - thanks to the skinny plan - visual connection to the outside world is maximised. Fosters have even happily if fortuitously managed to incorporate the visual symbolism increasingly asked of all architects these days, with nods to the Chinese dragon in the plan, supported by symbolic use of imperial red and yellow colouring – the colours of the glazing trusses shift from red, though orange to yellow and back, though with none of the wayfinding purpose you get at Barajas, where colour relates to the gate number and is carried through into ticketing. The roof is a delight though, and does help with orientation, the white power coated steel slats above the orange space frame subtly pointing you towards your point of departure.


A vast glass bubble – a Canary Wharf canopy on acid - shelters the Ground Transportation Complex (GTC) (station to you and me + below ground car parking).   As is the case throughout Beijing everything that has been designed for the Olympics and the economic miracle they should have engendered has been done on a vast scale. In recessionary times and with passengers now spread thinly across three terminals, there is an air of eerie calm. This place is future proofed for decades to come.


This is Foster at his best: making the complex simple and enjoyable. Terminal 3 may not be a radical reinvention of the airport. It may not give the building type a shot in the arm like, perhaps, Foster's Stansted Airport or Chep Lap Kok, Hong Kong did. But it does both vastly expand and refine it to make the terminal the most architecturally and technologically advanced in the world.



Watercube, National Swimming Centre

North Fourth Ring Road, Beijing Olympic Green Village, Beijing 100022, People's Republic of China

Architect: PTW Architects, Sydney

Executive Architects: CSCEC (China State Construction & Engineering Corporation)

 CCDI (China State Construction Design International)


Client: People's Government of Beijing Municipality, Beijing-State-owned Assets Management Co Ltd

Contractor: CSCEC (China State Construction & Engineering Corporation)

Structural Engineer: Arup

Environmental Engineer: Arup

Contract Value: 140m Aus dollars

Date of completion: January 2008

Gross internal area: 80,000 sq m

Competition is good for you, Mrs Thatcher used to say. Not all architects would agree, but that is another story. Here the competition provided by Herzog & de Meuron's National Stadium in Beijing has certainly paid off for PTW who had to come up with something equally breath-taking with their design for the 2008 Olympic Swimming Centre. Their quiet response is what could be the most beautiful shed the world has seen. 


At the competition stage the architects played around with organic forms but not least because of what they knew of what Herzog and de Meuron might be up to across the way they decided to go orthogonal instead. And the square is an important symbol in Chinese culture (so is the bird's nest of course if only when it comes to soup), so the understated geometry of this square box is entirely appropriate.   The other analogy is to a series of soap bubbles blown by a child. This is achieved by means of a mathematically rigorous steel space frame clad inside and out with inflated cushions of ETFE. These double cushions admit but diffuse light and both insulate the building and permit solar gain. With 10,000 square metres of the clever stuff (more than was used in the Eden Project) this is the biggest ETFE project in the world. Both surfaces are fritted in such a way that on sunny days, the cushions can be partially deflated so the frits overlap, helping to reduce the amount of sun and light admitted; on dull days they fully inflate them, increasing light levels.


Fabricated off-site it was fixed and inflated to a programme that did away with the need for cranes and scaffolding – balloons and cranes don't go. The other great thing about the material is its acoustic properties, a factor which would be much appreciated by any parent who has witnessed the deafening cacophony of a school swimming gala in a conventional pool. The local authorities took more persuading of ETFE's fire-resistant qualities. Yes it burns, Arup admitted, but as it does so it shrinks into itself, self-venting to allow the smoke out.  


As well as providing a popular and exciting Olympic venue, both for locals and a vast TV audience, this will be – once the impressive visitor numbers have declined from the current 30,000 a day - the legacy project par excellence, working as a swimming pool, ice rink and leisure centre with retail attached. It symbolises the new Beijing. 



Museum Brandhorst

Theresienstrasse 35a, Munich 80333, Germany


Architect: sauerbruch hutton

Client: Staatliches Baumt München 1

Contractor: all trades individually contracted

Structural Engineer: Ingenieurbüro Fink

Services Engineer: Ingenieurbüro Ottitsch

Lighting Engineer: Arup Lighting

Acoustic Engineer: Akustik-Ingenieurbüro Moll

Landscape Architect: Adelheid Gräfin Schönborn

Contract Value: 48.15m euro

Date of completion: October 2008

Gross internal area: 12,000 sq m

What is even more striking than the polychromatic skin is the way in which the architects of Museum Brandhorst have captured, filtered and distributed light – which is both the friend and enemy of works of art – throughout the deep-plan building. It is so well day-lit that for more than half the hours of half the days in the year it needs no artificial light – an impressive statistic which may even be improved upon in use. The galleries on the top floor are naturally lit with ceiling panels of barrisol, a stretch-fabric material which produces a soft, even light. On the ground floor, a complex system of reflectors and louvres collects and filters light, producing perfect illumination for the superb collection of modern art which includes works by Andy Warhol, Cy Twombly, Sigmar Polke and Damien Hirst. On the lower ground floor, by off-setting the plan, the architects have achieved not dissimilar lux levels. The environmental strategy has led to a mechanical system of blinds and louvres that respond to the changing light conditions throughout the day, somewhat noisily disturbing the peace of these otherwise tranquil galleries. But it works: by mixing natural and artificial light in this way, each room has its own character, and one which changes with the movement of the sun.


A slow system of cooling of these spaces is achieved by means of ground water pumped up through the walls, ceilings, and floors before being returned to source. The success of the system and its earlier adoption by other museum and university buildings in the vicinity has meant subterranean temperatures are rising, but for the time being at least 50% of thermal energy is being saved, as is 26% of electrical energy through this and other systems. Overall C02 emissions are calculated to be reduced by 365 tonnes per annum.


The galleries, spread over all three floors, vary in size and shape – responding to the permanent collections they contain. Each is offset slightly from its predecessor, this perceptible shift adding visual interest to the promenade. Floors are all of Danish oak, a rich wood which produces a faintly rose-tinted reflection on the sheer white walls, warming the whole of the interior.


The outside of the building is a work of art in its own right. Internal conditions required for the art mean few windows. To compensate and to give something back in urbanistic terms, the architects have produced a skin that, as well as working supremely well environmentally, is a thing of great and subtle beauty. 36,000 hand crafted ceramic rods in 23 different colours, grouped in tonal families, produces an impression that the whole building is oscillating, almost dematerialising. Because there are no pattern repeats, this is less like fabric or wallpaper design, more like fine art. On the street side the facade is a double acoustic response to the neighbours' demands for quiet: the ceramic rods themselves make up a porous surface but behind this is a sound-absorbing perforated folded metal sheet. Where the facades face other museum and university buildings, across a green quad, the metallic skin layer is flat, producing a subtly different overall effect.


Brandhorst Museum is the culmination of the practice's career-long experimentation into colour and texture, the work of architects at the top of their game.



Sean O'Casey Community Centre

St Mary's Road, East Wall, Dublin 3


Architect: O'Donnell + Tuomey

Client: Sean O'Casey Community Centre

Contractor: PJ Hegarty & Sons

Structural Engineer: Casey O'Rourke Associates

Services Engineer: RPS Group

Quantity Surveyor: Cyril Sweett

Landscape Consultant:  Howbert and Mays

Contract Value: 6.8m euro

Date of completion: February 2009

Gross internal area: 2223 sq m


The Sean O'Casey Community Centre serves the tight-knit community of East Wall, Dublin. There are 1800 houses, one church and one school in an area which is delineated by 19th century infrastructure, namely the Royal Canal and the dockland railway lines. These strong boundaries both define East Wall and separate it from the city.


The community wanted their new building to be both resource and symbol; they wanted a solid building that would stand the test of time. The centre provides a theatre as well as day-care, educational and recreational facilities for all ages, arranged mainly at ground floor level, with a five storey 'learning tower'. The ground floor accommodation is neatly arranged around four densely planted courtyards, a lyrical reference to paradise in a tough urban streetscape.


The carefully considered plan creates a hierarchy between public and private, street and garden; the use of courtyards largely negates the need for corridors. The main entrance is accessed through the first courtyard, set back from the street behind a tall timber fence, which meets the need for security while maintaining the openness and transparency that define the building. Sean O'Casey – briefly a local resident - was known for putting on plays in his own front room and the intimate theatre that opens off the reception area makes reference to this tradition. A second courtyard garden separates the main reception area from the community sports hall. A third courtyard brings light and greenery into the canteen which in turn opens out on to the entrance courtyard. A much larger fourth courtyard separates the public functions from the private day-care facilities, which are surrounded by greenery.


The Sean O'Casey Centre is the result of a clear vision and a strong concept that has been rigorously adhered to at every stage of the project. Materials have been chosen to coexist harmoniously; brick paving used both inside and out reinforces the connection between interior and exterior. There are refreshing details: no attempt has been made to match the structural steel columns to the strong vertical rhythm of the timber glazing to the courtyards, and internal corners are single glazed and frameless to reduce their material impact.


The dominant external material is off-shutter concrete, expertly formed on corrugated iron shutters. Only one external wall is rendered: the east wall of the learning tower which flanks the entrance courtyard. The use of circular windows defines the external facades, arranged in what initially appears to be a random way; the architects described the rationale behind the window pattern as that of a ball bouncing against a wall. Naturally enough, there is very little random about the pattern of the circular windows. Windows of three different diameters have been used; 300mm at high level to provide a view of the sky, 900mm to be above desk height in offices and classrooms and 1800mm where visitors can frame their entire body in the window reveal - should they choose to do so. The circular holes expose the corrugated section of the concrete which has the delicacy of a curtain.


The idiosyncratic balance between delicacy and solidity in the Sean O'Casey Centre has been created by skilled architects who have exercised their craft, at every turn, in a manner appropriate to the scale and significance of this delightful and uplifting building.



Sri Lanka


The British High Commission, Sri Lanka

389 Bauddhaloka Mawatha, Colombo 7

Architect:  Richard Murphy Architects

Local architect:  Milroy Perera

Client:  The Foreign and Commonwealth Office

Contractor:  Gibs Ltd

Structural Engineer: SKM Anthony Hunt

Services Engineer:    Fulcrum Consulting

Contract Value:  £7.5 m

Date of completion:  May 2008

Contract value:  £7.5 m

Gross internal area:  3,400 sq m

This was a dream job for Richard Murphy: the chance to build in the home of one of his two architectural masters Geoffrey Bawa (who designed the Sri Lankan Parliament) – the other being Carlo Scarpa. The influence of both is to be seen in the new British High Commission: the former in the plan, the latter in some of the detail. The hand of both is in evidence in the landscaping. There is even a splash of Barragan in the pool, where red wall turns out to be less architectural set dressing, more part of a tank-proof blast-wall.


Bawa's influence is direct: Murphy invited two former Bawa employees to join him in developing the competition entry. The winning result is a single storey building arranged round a series of courtyards which uses natural stack-ventilation and a degree of natural top-lighting. Although moribund for four years, the job finally went ahead, with Sri Lankan architects Milroy Perera providing local advice, as a design-and-build contract. More familiar both to Murphy and the Sri Lankans (historically and through Bawa) is the courtyard plan and the use of pools to help cool the building and add visual interest. There are nine partly enclosed courts, landscaped by Gross Max, adjacent to the central spine and seven more round the edge. The planting – in this lush country - was so successful that it had to be hacked back in one of the inner courtyards as snakes had taken up residence. 


The whole, inevitably in a civil war-torn country not to mention in the context of wider post 9/11 security demands, is surrounded that blast-wall. One generous window in the wall allows passers-by a glimpse of British democracy at work – a neat PR touch. Within the perimeter the buildings press up against the envelope – this is a tiny site for a high commission, chosen to replace the one on the Galle Road, largely because it is next door to the High Commissioner's residence, reducing the need for too many entertainment spaces in the new building. 


An entrance court with its own fish pond leads into the central spine. Office workers are able, indeed encouraged, to turn off the air conditioning and open the windows to the courtyards, allowing in a breeze induced by a thermal chimney above each arm of the design. The section shows this arrangement and the departments of trade, visa, consulate, aid etc are organised in a series of fingers off the spine.


With structural engineers SKM Anthony Hunt, the architects have designed the necessary defensive structures – despite its rustic appearance: the clay tile roof, the timber, the rough granite walls, the whole building is made out of reinforced concrete. And with services engineers Fulcrum Consulting they have produced a design which is as energy saving and naturally ventilated as possible.


High Commissioner Peter Hayes took up his post too late to influence the design but he believes he has a building that encourages his staff to be "flexible and fleet of foot" and allows them hot-desk in any part of the building. At the opening ceremony, he quoted Cedric Price: "The reason for architecture is to encourage people to behave, physically and mentally, in ways they had previously thought impossible." And he believes that the new building says something about contemporary Britain, and is modern, innovative and risk-taking.

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