Six of the best

Nick Ames looks at the contenders for one of the world’s leading architectural awards – with five of the six shortlisted designs making a first showing.

Six new building designs will be battling it out over the next few weeks for the keenly-contested Stirling Prize.

A castle, a chapel, a university and a natural landscape visitor-centre are competing with two housing developments for construction and design’s highest accolade from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

Judging is currently taking place across the UK with the winner to be announced at a glittereing awards ceremony on September 26.

The shortlist features the reinvention of the 1960s Sheffield housing block Park Hill, a striking suburban Essex housing development in the new town of Harlow, called Newhall Be, a holiday home within the burnt-out shell of 12th century Astley Castle, Warwickshire, the beautifully crafted Bishop Edward King Chapel, Oxfordshire, the dramatic Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre and the sculptured but practical University of Limerick Medical School and its accompanying student housing.

RIBA is working in partnership with the BBC on the 2013 awards with The Architects’ Journal as trade media partner.

This year, five of the six practices are on the list for the first time, beating-off competition from previous winners including Sir David Chipperfield and Zaha Hadid.

It is also the first year in the prize’s 18 year history that half of the shortlisted firms have women at the helm – Alison Brooks Architects, Grafton Architects and heneghan peng – amother move praised by organisers.

The six architecture practices competing for this year’s title, their odds according to bookmakers William Hil, together with RIBA’s descriptions are: Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, Northern Ireland by heneghan peng architects.

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