Charting Innovation

Charting Innovation

The 22nd edition of the RIBA Stirling Prize is presented to RIBA Chartered Architects and International Fellows for seminal constructions in the UK that contribute to the evolution of modern architecture. Six contenders have been shortlisted for the 2017 Best New Building category, having been judged on a range of criteria that include design vision; innovation and originality; the capacity to stimulate, engage and delight occupants and visitors; accessibility and sustainability; and the level of client satisfaction.

The shortlist includes Barrett’s Grove by Amin Taha + Groupwork– a distinct building in a disjointed urban street. Its adjacency to a primary school is a fitting location for a house built with the fairy-tale materials of brick, wood and straw. Inside is a series of generously proportioned, well-lit apartments– each with a wicker basket balcony. Whilst simplifying the architectonic form, the exposed structure’s material qualities create a warm, tactile aesthetic, evoking the essence of domesticity.

By contrast, the merging of Glasgow’s central, metropolitan and nautical colleges has resulted in two new central campuses, designed by Reiach and Hall Architects and Michael Laird Architects. Combining six major faculties in 300 high-tech classrooms, the complex features multi-purpose lecture theatres and specialist teaching facilities. Detailed organisation of student spaces encourages social interaction amongst formal teaching, whilst the scale and complexity of the project demonstrates considerable architectural skill and contributes further to the thriving cityscape.

Championing sustainability and materiality, Command of the Oceans, by Baynes and Mitchell Architects looks at conservation by re-using natural materials. The striking visitor entrance, clad in black zinc, knits together the historic fabric of the site. The triumph of the work lies in its understanding of the historical implications of the area. By enhancing visitors’ access to the wider cultural milieu, the structure is both informative and educational, marrying the organic surroundings with low impact technology.

Another work celebrated for its connective qualities is Drmm Architect’s Hastings Pier. A seven-year collaboration has transformed a pier in disrepair into a vibrant civic space. In a joint effort between the community and council, a scheme was established to reinvigorate the fire-damaged historic structure. Through a process of restoration materials from the previous setting were integrated into the new plan and helped create a setting fit for purpose. Welcoming in its design, with open entry to the public, the development has become a catalyst for urban regeneration.

A series of three buildings and gardens form a new studio, offices and archive for celebrated photographer Juergen Teller. A succession of informal and airy spaces enhance creative flow and sociability; a setting which influences the work of its client. The building is an exemplar of low energy design fashioned from a minimal material palette.

Similarly, the last of the nominees also acts as a platform for creative endeavour. The World Conservation and Exhibitions Centre by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners is located on the north-west corner of the British Museum site in Bloomsbury. It consists of five vertically linked pavilions (one of which is located entirely underground), houses, a gallery, laboratories, conservation studios, storage, and facilities to support the museum’s logistical requirements and loans programme. The resulting structure is a refined realisation of a complicated brief.

The winner of the 2017 RIBA Stirling Prize will be announced on 31 October at the Roundhouse, London. For further information please visit:

1. Baynes and Mitchell Architects, Command of the Oceans, 2017. Courtesy of Hélène Binet.