Stirling Prize Shortlist


The Royal Institute of British Architects announced on Thursday the shortlist for this year’s Stirling Prize.

“The RIBA Stirling Prize in association with The Architects’ Journal is the UK’s most prestigious architectural prize and is awarded annually to the architects of the building which has made the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year. Winners must be RIBA members and the building may be anywhere in the European Union. The prize is named after the architect Sir James Stirling (1926 – 1992). The winner will receive £20,000.”

RIBA in London will host an exhibition featuring the shortlisted selections from September 14 through November 24. Citations for each nomination follow.

America’s Cup Building – Valencia, Spain
David Chipperfield Architects

The building and park were the social focal point for the 2007 America’s Cup, the world’s premier sailing racing competition, staged in Europe for the first time in over 150 years. It is also the centrepiece of the re-organised old industrial port of Valencia.

The building is a stacked concrete structure with white steel trim; a ceiling of white metal panels; external floors of solid timber, and internal floors of white resin. The challenge will be to find new uses for the building when the America’s Cup circus has moved out of town, but it has an inherent flexibility. For the meantime we can enjoy it for what it is: a sporty and nautical building, very light on its feet and thoroughly appropriate to its function.

riba2007_01.jpg Photo: DCA

Casa da Musica – Porto, Portugal
Office for Metropolitan Architecture with Arup-AFA

The Casa da Musica concert hall is a building full of scenographic moments and ironic gestures. A series of spaces, sequences and staircases negotiate their way around the auditorium. Aluminium-clad steps rise and turn, following the beautifully made concrete shell – the space sometimes soaring up to the roof, crossed by the forms of smaller rooms above.

The auditorium is a fixed-rake box whose design is determined by acoustics. The ends are defined by double-skin walls of sinuous corrugated glass. They provide acoustic enclosure and dramatically distorted views to the outside. The side walls are punctuated by more large windows of rippling glass giving views into and from other key spaces in the building.

This is a well-made building which is intriguing, disquieting and dynamic. It provides excellent spaces for the performance of all kinds of music, and fulfils another contemporary role as a strange, enigmatic and compelling object in the urban form of the city of Porto.

riba2007_02.jpg Photo (Inc. Top Most): Philippe Ruault

Dresden Station Redevelopment – Germany
Foster + Partners

Although not totally destroyed by allied bombing during the infamous Dresden Raids, the station was badly damaged and suffered further from unsympathetic repairs and alterations. It is symbolically appropriate that the new work should have been designed by a British practice.

Foster + Partners won the competition on the strength of their proposal to re-roof the damaged late nineteenth century train shed with a lightweight fabric roof, instead of reproducing the heavy timber and glass roof that had previously existed. This allowed a light touch to the repair of the steelwork, as well as providing 13% more natural light. The re-glazing and plaster stripping to reveal the brick walls are successful. The removal of later elevation alterations and ornamental adornments are nicely judged. The people of Dresden are highly appreciative of the work that has been carried out.

riba2007_03.jpg Photo: Nigel Young

The Museum of Modern Literature – Marbach am Neckar, Germany
David Chipperfield Architects

Following re-unification, texts of German authors previously dispersed to east and west have been brought together in this new museum. The entrance sequence is brilliant. The visitor crosses an open terrace overlooking the valley, then negotiates a series of shallow steps to enter through giant hardwood doors. A staircase descends to the collections with their required diminishing light levels. The route concludes in the permanent collection. Here glass cases, containing original manuscripts, form a magical flickering landscape.

There are many things to praise about this building – the architect’s control and discrimination in the choice of materials has by now become a signature – but above all it is in the handling of the ‘difficult whole’ that the building excels.

riba2007_04.jpgPhoto: Christian Richters

The Savill Building – Windsor Great Park
Glenn Howells Architects

This project is a good modern interpretation of that great British traditional form: the ‘pavilion in the park’. The Savill Building, a Visitor Centre that creates a gateway to the listed gardens, takes the form of a dramatic gridshell structure made of timber from Windsor Park in which it sits. This innovative use of traditional materials means that it harmonises well with a skyline of mature trees, as well as being an object of great beauty and grace in its own right.

The roof is a distinctive undulating form. It ripples over everything, the gridshell twisting and turning like bones beneath an animal’s skin. The client wanted a landmark. What they have got is an appropriate response, in a modern idiom, and they are delighted.

riba2007_05.jpg Photo: Warwick Sweeney

Young Vic Theatre – London
Haworth Tompkins

The Cut is a cheerfully scruffy part of south London into which, in the 1970s, architect Bill Howell introduced the Young Vic at a cost of a mere £60,000. Times and prices change, but Haworth Tomkins have remained true to the ad-hoc aesthetic of the original while radically expanding opportunities for actors to make theatre and audiences to enjoy it.

The existing auditorium has been painstakingly reconstructed to satisfy new technical requirements yet retain the audience/performer relationship that distinguished its predecessor. The judges agreed that this project’s merit, demonstrated by its very detailed and careful response to the challenge of remaking somewhere that so far as its audience was concerned had never been broken, was an achievement that demanded recognition.

riba2007_06.jpg Photo: Philip Vile

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