2013 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist announced for the best new building

The shortlist for the prestigious 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize for the best new building has been announced today (Thursday 18 July). Six exciting and exceptional buildings will now go head to head for architecture’s highest accolade from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

The 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist features the vibrant reinvention of a 1960s Sheffield housing block Park Hill; the bar-raising suburban Essex housing development Newhall Be; a contemporary new holiday home within the burnt-out shell of the 12th century Astley Castle; the highly original and beautifully crafted Bishop Edward King Chapel; the dramatic and monumental Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre and the sculptural yet economic University of Limerick Medical School and student housing.

The RIBA is working in partnership with the BBC on the 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize; The Architects’ Journal is trade media partner.

This year’s RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist features some ‘fresh’ architecture talent - five of the six practices are on the list for the first time, beating-off competition from previous winners including Sir David Chipperfield and Dame Zaha Hadid. It is also the first year in the prize’s 18 year history that half of the shortlisted firms have women at the helm: Alison Brooks Architects, Grafton Architects and heneghan peng.

The six architecture practices competing for this year's title (and their odds according to William Hill) are:

 Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, Northern Ireland by heneghan peng architects. William Hill odds: 3/1

Breaks the mould of the traditional visitor centre that tends to hide from the limelight or make a statement, this highly imaginative and sculptural piece of ‘land art’ offers visitors an experience that is physical and interactive, like the causeway itself. Having ‘tuned in’ so perfectly to the environment, the visitor centre acts as the perfect prologue for the main event.

 Park Hill Phase 1, Sheffield by Hawkins\Brown with Studio Egret West

William Hill odds: 9/1

Reinvention of the loved and loathed Grade II* listed 1960s housing estate. The structure of the building remained in place whilst key features were changed – interior layout, windows, security and much more.  It stands as a beacon for imaginative regeneration, quality mass housing and the bold reuse of a listed building.

 Newhall Be, Harlow by Alison Brooks Architects

William Hill odds: 3/1

The radical re-thinking of the shape and interior of the UK house is tackled masterfully with these 84 new homes in suburban Essex that clearly illustrate that good design quality and committed developers can transform peoples’ lives. A new model for British housing?

 Astley Castle, Warwickshire by Witherford Watson Mann Architects

William Hill odds: 6/1

Beautiful contemporary Landmark Trust holiday home installed in the ruined walls of a 12th century manor. Unique example of the recovery of an ancient building – it is a prototype for a bold new attitude to restoration and reuse.

 University of Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects 

William Hill odds: 6/1

Exceptional example of how to create a vibrant new public space through the careful design and placement of buildings. High-quality, beautiful and dramatic buildings that punch far above their rock-bottom budget.

 Bishop Edward King Chapel, Oxfordshire by Niall McLaughlin Architects

William Hill odds:  9/4

An uplifting spiritual space of great potency that the client has described as ‘what we dreamed of but didn’t think we would get’. An incredible showcase for modern British craftsmanship.

The six shortlisted buildings range dramatically in size and purpose, but all will be judged by the same criteria: their design excellence and their significance to the evolution of architecture and the built environment.

Housing is a key highlight of the shortlist, with the projects at Newhall Be and Park Hill offering two very different answers to the quality and quantity crisis of British housing. They both show that with vision, careful-crafted design and a committed developer, great things really can be achieved.

The question of how to re-use historic listed buildings is boldly answered twice, with Park Hill and Astley Castle, both Grade II* listed.  Challenging the traditional ideas of conservation and restoration, the architects have creatively re-invented these buildings within their existing structures, with astounding results. The Giant’s Causeway Visitors’ Centre worked within the constraints of a UNESCO site and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to create something that also rose far above the expectations posed by its challenges.

Exquisite detailing abounds in all six projects, perhaps most potently in the Bishop Edward King Chapel in Oxfordshire whose rich stone façade and timber interior provide some of the best examples of craftsmanship the judges have seen for some time. Attention to detail has also transformed Limerick Medical School’s simple teaching and study areas into rich, theatrical spaces – all on an incredibly modest budget (€1,220 per sq m).

Angela Brady, RIBA President, said:

'The RIBA Stirling Prize is awarded to the building that has made the biggest contribution to the evolution of architecture, and nowhere is the need for fresh-thinking needed more than in housing. The UK is blighted with unimaginative, poor quality houses that people don’t want to live in but have little other choice, so I am delighted to see two amazing and highly original housing projects on this year’s shortlist. These projects show how when talented architects and clients work together and focus on quality, affordable and desirable new homes can be created. They shine a light on what the future of UK housing can be.

All six shortlisted projects are ground-breaking in their own way – buildings that deliver more than could ever have been expected. Some of them, such as Park Hill and the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, are genuinely courageous in laying out a new visionary approach. 

This RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist is sending out the clear message that creative vision improves our lives.'

The winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize will be announced on the evening of Thursday 26 September at Central Saint Martins, King’s Cross, designed by last year’s RIBA Stirling Prize winner Stanton Williams.

The 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize judges who will visit the six shortlisted buildings and meet for a final time on the day of the presentation (26 September) to pick the winner are: Stephen Hodder – architect and RIBA President Elect (President: 01/09/13; Sheila O’Donnell - architect, O’Donnell + Tuomey; Paul Williams - architect, Stanton Williams; Dame Vivien Duffield – philanthropist and Chair of the Clore Duffield Foundation; and Tom Dyckhoff – journalist and broadcaster.

Previous winners of the RIBA Stirling Prize include: Sainsbury Laboratory by Stanton Williams (2012); Evelyn Grace Academy (2011) and MAXXI Museum, Rome (2010) both by Zaha Hadid Architects; Maggie’s Centre at Charing Cross Hospital, London by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (2009); Accordia housing development by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios/Alison Brooks Architects/Maccreanor Lavington (2008); The Museum of Modern Literature, Marbach am Neckar, Germany by David Chipperfield Architects (2007).

Notes to editors

  1. For further press information please contact Beatrice Cooke in the RIBA Press Office – beatrice.cooke@riba.org or 020 7307 3813/07805 173681

Images are available via this link: https://app.box.com/s/8j1y1jhjreayefljch7x

  2. The RIBA Stirling Prize is the UK’s most prestigious architecture award. Given to the architect of the building thought to be the most significant of the year for the evolution of architecture and the built environment, the RIBA Stirling Prize is judged on a range of criteria including design vision, innovation and originality, capacity to stimulate engage and delight occupants and visitors, accessibility and sustainability, how fit the building is for its purpose and the level of client satisfaction. www.architecture.com/stirling

  3. Judges citations:

Park Hill Phase 1

South Street, Park Hill, Sheffield, S2

Architect:  Hawkins/Brown with Studio Egret West

Landscape Consultant:   Grant Associates

Client:  Urban Splash

Contractor:  Urban Splash Build

Structural Engineer:    Stockley

Services Engineer:  Ashmount

Contract Value:  confidential

Date of completion:    February 2013

Gross internal area:     27,928 sq m

 Together the two firms of architects have worked with developers Urban Splash to address the contradictory demands of conservation and commerce and to bring back to life a Sheffield landmark.

 The original aspiration of the late 1950s blocks to resemble an Italian hill village had degenerated into a sorry place to be – the completed first phase once again gives the people of Sheffield and visitors a building that excites and inspires

 The original streets in the sky have been made safe with security measures and a metre borrowed from their generous width to add to the accommodation. Set back doorways and corner windows also humanise these spaces

 The architects have doubled the amount of glazing, while retaining the character of the original concrete and exposing inside the split-level apartments but walls have been removed to full them with light

 The vibrant coloured panels borrow from the gradated pastel colours of the original brickwork, giving a Corbusian vigour to the facades.

Newhall Be

Harlow, Essex

Architect:  Alison Brooks Architects

Client/Contractor:  Galliford Try Partnerships/Linden Homes Eastern

Structural Engineer:    Thomasons

Masterplanning:   Studio REAL/Alison Brooks Architects

Contract Value:  £12,000,000

Date of completion:    July 2012

Gross internal area:     Total site: 1.63 hectares

 The 84 unit Newhall Be scheme demonstrates the added value that good architects can bring to the thorny problem of housing people outside our major cities. ABA have worked with housing developer Galliford Try and persuaded them that investing in quality adds to their bottom line

 By halving the size of the gardens – creating roof terraces in total equalling the land ‘lost’ - the architects managed to get an extra six houses on to the development. This paid for extras such as full-height windows, dedicated studies and convertible roof space, things which don’t feature in the standard housebuilders’ products

 The 10.5m x 9.5m plot size for the courtyard houses, which predominate, is a clever manipulation of internal/external space, incorporating simple effective moves such as the gentle angling of the flank walls and balconies to avoid overlooking. 

 The overall scheme raises the bar for suburban housing developments that – if emulated could and should have a significant impact on development across the country.

 This is a fine achievement in its own right. In the context of much of the UK’s new housebuilding it is truly exceptional.

Astley Castle

Nuneaton, Warwickshire

Architect:  Witherford Watson Mann Architects

Client:  The Landmark Trust

Contractor:    William Anelay

Structural Engineer:    Price and Myers

Services Engineer:  Building Design Partnership

Contract Value:  £1,350,000

Date of completion:    July 2012

Gross internal area:     285 sq m

 This sensitive scheme places the new building at the heart of the old.  It shows creativity as well as preservation and conservation

 In the burnt-out ruins of 12th century fortified manor, the architects have created a new house which allows Landmark Trust guests to experience life in an old castle yet in immediate environs that are distinctly 21st century

 Astley Castle demonstrates that working within sensitive historic contexts requires far more than the specialist skills of the conservation architect: this is an important piece of architecture, beautifully detailed and crafted

 The decision to put the bedrooms and bathrooms on the ground floor and the communal spaces above makes the experience of the house very special.

Bishop Edward King Chapel


Architect:  Niall McLaughlin Architects

Client:   Ripon College and Community of St John the Baptist

Contractor:   Beard Construction

Structural Engineer:    Price and Myers

Services Engineer:   Synergy Consulting Engineers

Contract Value:  £2,034,000

Date of completion:    Jan 2013

Gross internal area:     280 sq m

 Built to serve a theological college and a small religious order of nuns, the chapel defies its diminutive scale to provide an uplifting spiritual space of great potency

 This is a materially rich scheme: above an ashlar base the principal material is a cream limestone hand-broken and laid criss-cross with the raw ends exposed, producing an extraordinarily rich texture

 The building is rich in its allusions to architectural history yet possess the power to impact on any passer-by

 A ribbon of high windows floods the chapel and its ambulatory with even light. The delicate timber structure is of blonde wood. This is an church for all seasons and serves equally all the diverse branches of the Anglican Church

 Cuddeston fulfils its complex brief with a lyrical grace.

Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre

Causeway Road, Bushmills

Architect:  heneghan peng architects

Client:  The National Trust

Landscape Design:  heneghan peng architects (concept design)

Mitchell + Associates (implementation)

Contractor:  Gilbert-Ash

Structural Engineer:    Arup

Services Engineer:  Bennett Robertson

Contract Value:  confidential

Date of completion:    May 2012

Gross internal area:     1,800 sq m

 This elegant, powerful visitor centre appears to be born of its place; the irregular lines of basalt columns grow and recede into the landscape to form the building edges, with the building roof a part of the dramatic landscape

 Visitor Centres are hard to do; this one serves as shop, café and exhibition without any one function over-powering what is a simple, telling piece of architecture

 Visitor Centres are normally self-effacing buildings fulfilling the needs of visitors but careful not to draw the limelight. This one pulls of that difficult trick of being a destination in its own right without upstaging the principal event – the causeway which is set a kilometre apart and invisible from it

 The internal space is made from a large concrete soffit with slices of roof lights and slots between the basalt allowing natural light deep into the heart of the building.

University of Limerick Medical School, student housing and bus shelter

Limerick, Ireland

Architect:   Grafton Architects

Client:   Plassey Campus Developments

Contractor:   PJ Hegarty & Sons

Structural Engineer:    PUNCH Consulting Engineers

Services Engineer:   Don O'Malley & Partners

Completion date:   Sept 2012

Cost:   confidential

Gross internal area:     9900 sq m

It is not easy to create good architecture on an incredibly tight budget and previous architectural experiments on the Limerick Campus have been mixed, but Grafton Architects have taken an ordinary programme for the student housing and a series of muscular buildings that despite their modest size, have a scale and weight and create a point of entry to the campus

 Facing is the medical school which is cool grey and monolithic, another relatively modest building with a strong presence.  The central space of the medical school soars above the entry, rich in timber details against massive concrete, with views up to a study area overlooking the atrium, and further still to bridges and windows on higher levels. 

 This building feels like it punches well above its weight.  It transforms simple teaching and study spaces into rich, theatrical spaces, with a generosity that verges on the heroic.

 The heroic bus shelter that completes the fine hard-landscaped square also forms a dramatic entrance to a neighbouring restaurant pavilion (by other hands). This is place-making of the first order.

   4. The RIBA and BBC collaboration will include an online vote for users of the BBC News website to choose their favourite of the six shortlisted buildings, along with Magazine feature content.

   5. Established in 1895, The Architects' Journal has consistently been at the forefront of architectural publishing. Its weekly news coverage, comprehensive building studies and in-depth technical and practice features make it essential reading for the profession, and its incisive commentary makes it a must-read for opinion formers. The AJ is the UK's leading independent architectural magazine, whose authoritative voice has informed generations of architects. For more information on the RIBA Awards programme visit the AJ website at www.architectsjournal.co.uk

   6. The Royal Institute of British Architects champions better buildings, communities and the environment through architecture and our members. www.architecture.com @RIBA

   7. The winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize will be announced on the evening of Thursday 26 September at Central Saint Martins, King’s Cross,designed by last year’s RIBA Stirling Prize winner Stanton Williams. Guests will experience the architecture party of the year and an event unlike any previous RIBA Stirling Prize awards. Celebrations take place in the covered 180m central ‘street’. To book:  www.architecture.com/RIBAStirlingPrize2013