Astley Castle in Warwickshire by Witherford Watson Mann Architects wins the RIBA Stirling Prize 2013 for the best new building of the year

Astley Castle, a groundbreaking modern holiday home inserted into the crumbling walls of an ancient moated castle, in Warwickshire by Witherford Watson Mann Architects has won the coveted RIBA Stirling Prize 2013 for the best building of the year. Now in its 18th year, the RIBA Stirling Prize is the UK’s most prestigious architecture prize. It the first time that either a house or a conservation project have won the prize.

The presentation of the RIBA Stirling Prize trophy to Witherford Watson Mann Architects took place at a special ceremony this evening (Thursday 26 September) at Central Saint Martins, King’s Cross, London.

Astley Castle is a 12th century fortified manor which had been lying in ruins since a fire gutted it in 1978. When the architects came to work on the building it was in a state of collapse and on the Heritage at Risk Register. What has been built is no straightforward restoration, the building had seen additions and revisions carried out in almost every century since Medieval times, so knowing which period to emulate would have been impossible. The architects solution was to stabilise the ruin and create the next layer of the building’s history. The result is a highly complex and original new house giving the castle’s visitors a truly unique experience.

Speaking tonight, RIBA President Stephen Hodder said:

"Astley Castle is an exceptional example of how modern architecture can revive an ancient monument. It is significant because rather than a conventional restoration project, the architects have designed an incredibly powerful contemporary house which is expertly and intricately intertwined with 800 years of history. Every detail has been carefully considered, from a specific brick pattern to the exact angle of a view, resulting in a sensually rich experience for all who visit. This beautiful new building is a real labour of love. It was realised in true collaboration between a visionary client, designer and contractors. I am delighted to present Witherford Watson Mann with the 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize."


This is the first time Witherford Watson Mann has won or been shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize. Their previous buildings include the Amnesty International UK headquarters, the Whitechapel Art Gallery extension in London with Robbrecht en Daem, and Arts Council Manchester.


Anna Keay, Director of Landmark Trust, who commissioned Witherford Watson Mann Architects to work on Astley Castle said:

"We are absolutely thrilled with what WWM have achieved at Astley Castle. The Landmark Trust found their approach compelling from the moment they first described it, and their commitment to immaculate quality in execution was truly remarkable"


Astley Castle was chosen by the judges from the following outstanding shortlisted entries:



  • Bishop King Edward Chapel, Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire by Niall McLaughlin Architects

  • Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, Northern Ireland by heneghan peng architects

  • Newhall Be, Harlow by Alison Brooks Architects

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

  • University of Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects

The 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize judges were: Sheila O’Donnell - architect, O’Donnell + Tuomey; Paul Williams - architect, Stanton Williams; Dame Vivien Duffield – philanthropist and Chair of the Clore Duffield Foundation; Tom Dyckhoff – journalist and broadcaster and RIBA President Stephen Hodder.


The winners of the RIBA Lubetkin Prize for the best international building and three special awards were also announced this evening:

  • Cool Conservatories, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, won the RIBA Lubetkin Prize for the most outstanding work of international architecture outside the EU by a member of the RIBA. This is the second year running for Wilkinson Eyre Architects, who won the prize last year for Guangzhou International Finance Centre.
  • Slip House in Brixton, South London, by Carl Turner Architects won the RIBA Manser Medal for the best new private home.

  • Montpelier Community Nursery by AY architects won the RIBA’s 2013 Stephen Lawrence Prize. Set up in memory of Stephen Lawrence who was setting out on the road to becoming an architect when he was murdered in 1993 and funded by the Marco Goldschmied Foundation, the prize rewards the best project with a construction budget of less than £1 million and is intended to encourage fresh talent working with smaller budgets

  • The National Trust won the 2013 RIBA Client of the Year. The award recognizes the role good clients play in the delivery of fine architecture.

The Architects’ Journal is the trade media partner for the RIBA Stirling Prize and special awards.

Notes to editors


Notes to editors

1.Full information about the RIBA Stirling Prize, including previous winners is at:


2.For further press information journalists please contact Beatrice Cooke in the RIBA Press Office on 020 7307 3813 / 07805 173681 or email

3.Images of the winning building and shortlisted entries can be downloaded from:


4.The judges citation for the RIBA Stirling Prize winner follows:

The challenge of how to be resolutely of this age while simultaneously embracing the past is one of the most complex problems that architects have had to face throughout architectural history. It is also one that, over the past two centuries, has perhaps caused the most argument. Astley Castle resolves that argument with beauty, intelligence and a rigour that runs through to the smallest of details. There is, of course, great romance to a ruined castle. This, however, can be as much hindrance as help to the architect seeking to give this ruin a future, a highly pragmatic one at that, as a holiday home. Witherford Watson Mann has managed at once to respect the past, to be gentle in its relationship, while simultaneously not being afraid to make its architectural presence felt, and with some force. It has dealt with Astley’s ruins with intelligence and practicality, while adding to them with a contemporary architecture that is rich, visually beautiful and tactile. The architects have responded intuitively to the site, working with the client throughout the process on a voyage of discovery, to give the castle its new form. The result darns together not only the present and the past, but the head and the heart with a complexity and deftness that is only truly appreciated when within the building itself. This is a building that constantly reveals itself both inside and out. For this we have to thank the client as well as the architect, a client willing to be extremely ambitious in its commissioning. In the end, all great architecture comes down to a conversation, between client and architect, between history and the present.



As the 2014 Royal Gold Medallist, Joseph Rykwert, said of this project, “there is no comparable recovery of an ancient monument anywhere in this country, and very few elsewhere.” The question of conservation and finding new uses for buildings whose original function has disappeared is extremely pertinent today, not only because of our economic climate, but because this is a country that wears its past resolutely on its sleeve. History is central to our national identity. This is a clever and robust response to the issue, instead of one that is over cautious or that clashes, inappropriately. So much so that the one upholds the other in every sense. Here history becomes a living, energetic force.

5.The RIBA Stirling Prize is for the best building in the UK by RIBA chartered architects and International Fellows, or in the rest of the EU by an RIBA chartered architect. The RIBA Stirling Prize is chosen from a shortlist drawn up by the RIBA Awards Group following visits to eligible schemes. The shortlisted buildings are 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. The RIBA Stirling Prize jury determines the winner on the day of the prize’s presentation and its votes remain confidential. Full details about the prize can be found at


6.This is the 18th year the RIBA Stirling Prize has been presented. Previous winners of the RIBA Stirling Prize include: Sainsbury Laboratory, Cambridge by Stanton Williams (2012); Evelyn Grace Academy, London (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).

7.Links to download images of the RIBA Lubetkin Prize and special award winners:


Images of the 2013 RIBA Lubetkin Prize winner can be downloaded here:



Images of the 2013 RIBA Stephen Lawrence Prize winner can be downloaded here:

Further information on the Stephen Lawrence Prize at:



Images of 2013 RIBA Manser Medal winner can be downloaded here:

Further information on the RIBA Manser Medal at:


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