RIBA Stirling Prize

New Library Magdalene College

RIBA Stirling Prize 2022

The RIBA Stirling Prize is awarded to the UK’s best new building

RIBA Stirling Prize winner 2022: The New Library, Magdalene College

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has named The New Library, Magdalene College in Cambridge by Níall McLaughlin Architects, as the winner of the 26th RIBA Stirling Prize.

Watch the playlist below, featuring the winner's video of The New Library, Magdalene College in Cambridge, the winner's announcement and speech, as well as exclusive interviews from the live event held at 66 Portland Place, London.

The exquisitely detailed new building provides students at the 700-year-old University of Cambridge college with a new library – open 24 hours a day – incorporating an archive and an art gallery.  

Set within the college grounds in Cambridge’s city-centre, the new library replaces the cramped study spaces of the adjacent 17th century Grade I listed Pepys Library and extends the quadrangular arrangement of buildings and courts that have gradually developed from the monastic college site.  

Honouring the rich surrounding history, Níall McLaughlin Architects combines load-bearing brick, gabled pitched roofs, windows with tracery and brick chimneys that animate the skyline with contemporary sustainable design elements to create a building that will stand the test of time.  

It contrasts openness with intimacy; and deftly achieves the architects’ vision for a structure that gradually rises up towards the light. 

Visitors are met with an elegant brickwork façade and enticing large wooden doors, which open into a tiered, timber interior, bathed in light. A triple-height entrance hall leads into a central double-height reading room. A regular grid of brick chimneys supports the timber floors and bookshelves and carries warm air up to ventilate the building. Between each set of four chimneys, there is a large, vaulted lantern skylight. A connecting passageway above, along the building's eastern end, provides views across the college and gardens and towards the river.  

The grid structure delineates an attractive array of spaces: wide zones for reading rooms and group study, and narrow zones for staircases and bookcases.  

The layout also creates a range of study spaces for independent study - with desks set into bay windows, hidden in private niches and within shared zones – enabling students to be tucked away or among peers depending on their inclination. 

This is a modern building that employs simple but highly effective passive ventilation and natural lighting strategies to minimise energy in use, and materials such as engineered timber structure to reduce carbon embodied in its construction. 

Speaking on behalf of the 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize jury, RIBA President Simon Allford, said:  

“A unique setting with a clear purpose – The New Library at Magdalene College is sophisticated, generous, architecture that has been built to last.   

Creating a new building that will last at least 400 years is a significant challenge, but one that Niall McLaughlin Architects has risen to with the utmost skill, care and responsibility.  

The result – a solid and confident, yet deferential new kid on the college block.   

The light-filled, warm-wood interior lifts spirit and fosters connections. Students have been gifted a calm, sequence of connected spaces where they, and future generations, will be able to contemplate and congregate, enjoying it both together and apart. The overarching commitment to build something that will stand the test of time can be felt in every material and detail, and from every viewpoint. This is the epitome of how to build for the long-term.  

Well-designed environments hugely improve student success and wellbeing. They should be the rule for all students and teachers in all places of learning, not the exception.  

As universities across the world work hard to position themselves in an ever-growing higher education marketplace, investment in great buildings is essential. This is an exemplary model to aspire to.”

RIBA Stirling Prize 2022 jury

Judges for the RIBA Stirling Prize 2022 are:

  • RIBA President, Simon Allford (Chair)
  • Glenn Howells, Founder of Glenn Howells Architects
  • Kirsten Lees, Managing Partner at Grimshaw 
  • Chris Ofili, Internationally acclaimed artist 
  • Smith Mordak Director of Sustainability and Physics at Buro Happold 

Meet this year's Stirling Prize jury.

About the Stirling Prize

The RIBA Stirling Prize is judged against 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 Awards are the most rigorously judged prizes for architectural excellence in the UK, with the winning buildings then eligible for the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize. 

Born in 1996 out of its predecessor, The Building of the Year Award, The RIBA Stirling Prize is presented to RIBA Chartered Architects and International Fellows for buildings in the UK which have made the greatest contribution to the evolution of architecture over the past year.

The RIBA Stirling Prize is named after James Stirling. Stirling won the Royal Gold Medal in 1980 'in recognition of past achievements which exist in their own right, as well as the potential of unbuilt projects, both past and future, which are an inseparable part of the Stirling vocabulary'.

Often described as a 'prophet without honour in his own country', he did not live long enough to achieve the public recognition and success his peers achieved after his untimely death. He died, at the height of his powers, following a routine operation.

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