The shortlist for the UK’s 2015 Riba Stirling Prize has been announced.
Britain’s best buildings in 2015 are Burntwood School by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris; Darbishire Place, Peabody housing by Niall McLaughlin Architects; Maggie’s Cancer Care Centre Lanarkshire by Reiach and Hall Architects; NEO Bankside by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners; University of Greenwich Stockwell Street by Heneghan Peng Architects; and The Whitworth in Manchester by MUMA.
Riba president, Stephen Hodder, says: “The shortlisted projects are each surprising new additions to urban locations – hemmed into a hospital car park, in-filling an east London square, completing a school campus.
“But their stand-out common quality is their exceptionally executed crafted detail.”
Only one project on the shortlist, NEO Bankside, had a big price tag, £140m.
The rest are low-cost, or very low-cost, buildings.
Burntwood School, Wandsworth, SW17 Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
A secondary school complex in south London and one of the last schools of new Labour’s costly school programme, the design represents a culmination of the architects’ 10-year involvement with contractor Lend Lease,
The sculpted concrete facades have already inspired GCSE art projects among pupils.
Darbishire Place, E1 Níall McLaughlin Architects
This brick block of 13 flats completes the Peabody estate in Whitechapel, which was originally built by the housing association’s chief architect, Henry Darbishire, in the 1870s.
Filling in the gap of a second world war bomb site, the building follows Darbishire’s designs for “cheap, cleanly, well drained and healthful dwellings for the poor”, but updates it with generous internal spaces and sharply-crafted details that make it as near to a model housing.
Maggie’s Lanarkshire Reiach and Hall Architects
The 12th building in the programme of cancer care centres, begun by architecture critic Charles Jencks and his late wife Maggie in 1995, it is notably less showy than many of the centres, such as those designed by Frank Gehey and Zaha Hadid. The programme has been criticised for using design by famous names, but this is more down-to-earth than its predecessors, designed with creating a calming, domestic environment in mind.
It it is a simple single-storey building arranged around small courtyards with a long glazed wall that gives on to an expansive garden. The emphasis on outdoor space is intended to attract more men to use the centre – doing a spot of gardening proving a less confrontational setting for conversation than a counselling room.
NEO Bankside, SE1 Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
The work of Richard Rogers’ practice it consist of 200 flats, which are on the market for up to £22 and have the finish you should expect for such a price-tag, with every detail meticulously engineered.
The exposed structural fetish has even been elevated to a luxury commodity, with customers paying a premium for apartments with the giant steel nodes.
University of Greenwich Stockwell Street Building, SE10 Heneghan Peng architects
A stylish addition to the educational establishment the studios have a lofty scale and a strong palette of raw materials, with concrete, steel and exposed services giving an industrial air. Life revolves around the hallowed “crit pit”, where students’ presentations take place – a 10m-high space with an elevated viewing gallery.
A series of roof terraces provide space for experimental allotments and a bubbling algae farm, plus spectacular views across the Greenwich rooftops.
The Whitworth, Manchester MUMA
When the Whitworth Museum first unveiled its collection in July 1890, the art critic of the then Manchester Guardian scoffed with disbelief. It was “almost ludicrously bad,” he said, affording “little or no ground for hope” for the future of the museum, which would likely be “choked with rubbish” forevermore.
But under the visionary leadership of Maria Balshaw, the institution has earned a name as a vibrant bastion of contemporary art, following a £15m extension and refurbishment of its rambling Victorian building.
Low ceilings from the 1960s have been mercifully stripped out to reveal soaring vaulted halls, while new archive storage and educational spaces have been intelligently carved out.
Care has been invested in details, from the triangular, polished stainless-steel window mullions, designed to dissolve into the view of the park, to a huge openable facade for oversized deliveries and a freight lift that can hold an entire class of children.
The temperature and humidity is controlled without the need for the usual mechanical equipment – a process developed by the architects alongside engineers BuroHappold.