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RIBA Stirling Prize 2021 shortlist announced

United Kingdom Architecture News - Sep 16, 2021 - 12:58   2425 views

RIBA Stirling Prize 2021 shortlist announced

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced six projects shortlisted for the coveted 2021 RIBA Stirling Prize, the prize is recognized as the UK's best new building.

Among the six shortlisted projects, Marks Barfield Architects' modern urban mosque Cambridge Central Mosque, Grafton Architects' new student hub Kingston University London – Town House and Amin Taha's speculative project 15 Clerkenwell Close, which faced demolition in 2019, hit this year's Stirling Prize shortlist.  

Last year, due to the coronavirus pandemic the 2020 Stirling Prize was not awarded. It seems that Amin Taha's project was submitted to the RIBA Stirling Prize after Amin Taha won the appeal to save the building from demolition in 2019. 

"The 2021 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist demonstrates the innovation and ambition that lies at the heart of exceptional architecture," said RIBA President Simon Allford. 

"From a busy city mosque in Cambridge to a remote coastal bridge in Cornwall, the six projects vary tremendously in their location and use – but they are united in their ingenuity and creativity, their consideration of their local environment and historical context, and their use of high-quality materials. In their architects’ attention to detail, and their clients’ tenacity and commitment, these six projects set themselves apart."

"As we navigate major global challenges, from a global pandemic to the climate emergency, this shortlist demonstrates the critical role that UK architects play in creating thoughtful and sustainable places and spaces."

"From the holistic sustainability of the Windermere Jetty Museum to the creation of a new urban community in Cambridge; from the unconventional use of historic building materials and techniques at Clerkenwell Close, to the creation of dynamic social spaces at Kingston University Town House, these projects push the boundaries of our discipline and demonstrate the positive impact that quality architecture has on people and our planet," Allford added.

The six buildings in the running to be crowned the UK’s best are:

RIBA Stirling Prize 2021 shortlist announced

15 Clerkenwell Close by Amin Taha. Image © Tim Soar

15 Clerkenwell Close in London by Groupwork

"15 Clerkenwell Close is a limestone apartment and office building, sitting within the all but vanished boundaries of an C11th Norman abbey." 

"15 Clerkenwell Close's non descriptive title belies the astonishing architectural triumph that dwells at the simple address, occupying a plot of land a stones throw from Clerkenwell Green. The 7 storey building is the architect's own development comprising one or two flats per floor, a double height architect's studio at basement and ground and the architect's home on the top floor."

"It is clear hearing the architect talk about the project, including a lengthy analysis of the history of the site dating back to an C11th Norman Abbey, that the thoroughness and care that has gone into every thought and every inch of the project, crossed the border of obsession very early in the process. The result is a truly bespoke, hand crafted work of art, but one that has a grace and balance suggesting that the obsession was harnessed rather than letting the madness in."

RIBA Stirling Prize 2021 shortlist announced

Image © Morley von Sternberg

Cambridge Central Mosque in Cambridge by Marks Barfield Architects

"Cambridge Central Mosque is a modern urban mosque, inspired by traditional Islamic mosque and British church designs."

"The urban intervention of inserting a mosque capable of welcoming 1,000 worshipers within a low rise, residential neighbourhood, without dominating it, is masterful. Its presence is clear but modest, considering the size of the mosque relative to the two storey terrace houses around it." 

"This is achieved by setting it back from the street, progressing through the Islamic garden, then gradually increasing in scale to the front portico, atrium with cafe to one side and study centre to the other, through to central ablution areas. The building then rises at the rear to the largest mass of the prayer hall, which shifts in geometry to face Mecca."

"The defining internal characteristic of the mosque is the timber ‘trees’ which form the structural support for the roof and the roof lights. The geometry of the trees was developed through work with geometric artist Keith Critchlow, creating the underlying geometry of the mosque. It combines an Islamic ‘the Breath of the Compassionate’ pattern into a structural grid that supports the roof and is then brought to a point at the columns. It is a simple device that combines the structural logic of supporting a large span with few columns and a celebration of the structural material and its decorative possibilities, bringing to mind both Fosters’ Stansted Airport, and King's College Chapel."

RIBA Stirling Prize 2021 shortlist announced

Image © Jack Hobhouse

Key Worker Housing, Eddington in Cambridge by Stanton Williams

"The housing is a fresh take on communal city-living with loose, interconnected courtyards."

"This urban approach of ‘loose’ interconnected courtyards is very successful and creates a delightful series of spaces. The walk from Market Square through four interwoven courts to reach Landscape Court is a pleasure, and easily accessible by all. The landscaping, both hard and soft, is particularly successful in integrating the buildings within a holistic and rigorous external environment."

"The scheme manages to feel as though it is part Cambridge college and part new piece of city. As such, there is a slight ambiguity of what is truly public and what is private communal space for the residents, yet publicly accessible. This is deliberately employed in order to foster a communal sense within the development and an encouragement to use the space accordingly. With almost no private amenity space in the form of balconies, most external space is communal, either at roof level or ground level, so a resident wanting to enjoy a sunny afternoon is more than likely to bump into a neighbour."

RIBA Stirling Prize 2021 shortlist announced

Image © Dennis Gilbert

Kingston University London - Town House in London by Grafton Architects

"Kingston University London - Town House is a new student hub comprising dynamic study, performance and social spaces in Kingston’s town centre.

"Of the two ambitious projects from the same client to make the shortlist, the Town House is the more conventional architectural project. It is very accomplished. The challenging brief framed a bold aspiration to design the beating heart for Kingston University within a building worthy of the international stage. Combining two dynamically opposed uses – dance studio and library - the result is both technically and spatially excellent, generating a warm, dynamic energy that truly captures the spirit of learning."

"Conceptually, the building exploits two key devices: the colonnade and the courtyard. Wrapping the building in a tall colonnade gives it presence on the street, successfully balancing the need to make a landmark statement with the wider need to respond respectfully in size and scale to its context. This objective is further aided by the exquisite detailing of the exposed concrete frame, its language running inside and out, replicated and rotated at each junction but never repeated."

RIBA Stirling Prize 2021 shortlist announced

Image © David Levene

Tintagel Castle Footbridge for English Heritage in Cornwall by Ney & Partners and William Matthews Associates

"Tintagel Castle Footbridge is a spectacular bridge along the rugged Cornish coast, linking to a medieval castle."

"This new bridge is beautifully executed at all scales, from the way it respects the silhouette of the landforms it abuts, down to the tactile detail of its path, made from slate on edge."

"Retracing the approximate width and length of the natural land-bridge and castle structures that have long since fallen into the water, the bridge notionally links past with present and physically connects two stranded sections of the castle precinct. With its highly ceremonial presence, articulated in every piece of finely crafted stainless steel, it also allows contemporary visitors to retrace the steps of predecessors who would have passed through this section of the castle to gain entry to the grand hall on the island side."

"Technical achievement and degree of difficulty metrics are high in this project where construction logistics and material specification have all been expertly handled. It also sets the bar very high above the potentially choppy waters of the competitions and commissioning process, standing out as an exemplar of how projects should be run, having been taken from concept to delivery without dither or delay."

"This is much more than a bridge. It is a connector, an enabler, an interpreter and a spectacle all within its own right."

RIBA Stirling Prize 2021 shortlist announced

Image © Christian Richters

Windermere Jetty Museum in Cumbria by Carmody Groarke

"Windermere Jetty Museum is a confident cluster of shed-like buildings framing views of Lake Windermere – dedicated to telling the stories of boats and steam."

"Nestling into the eastern shore of Lake Windermere, the Jetty Museum creates a compelling composition of vernacular forms which achieves an unusual reconciliation of the reassuringly familiar with the strikingly contemporary. When seen from the lake its dark shed-like buildings are embedded in the wooded hillside behind, but on arrival, the museum exudes the confident identity of a major cultural institution."

"The cluster of pitched roof forms successfully breaks down the large scale of the museum, integrating it into its landscape setting. This seemingly picturesque arrangement derives its layout from functional requirements whilst carefully framing views of the lake. It is these views, and the experience of the water, which become the main protagonist in the considered and choreographed sequence of the visitors’ route, with the building successfully blurring boundaries between climate controlled galleries, workshops, the wet dock and the lake itself. Learning from older Lakeland buildings, the provision of deeply overhanging eaves creates external rooms, sheltering visitors from the elements."

The 2021 RIBA Stirling Prize will be announced on Thursday 14 October 2021 at Sir Basil Spence’s Coventry Cathedral Coventry Cathedral, as part of the UK City of Culture 2021 celebrations.

Previous winners of the RIBA Stirling Prize include Goldsmith Street by Mikhail Riches in 2019 Bloomberg by Foster + Partners 2018, Hastings Pier by dRMM in 2017, Newport Street Gallery by Caruso St John in 2016, Burntwood School, London by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) in 2015.

Top image: 15 Clerkenwell Close by Amin Taha. Image © Tim Soar

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