Musings for November 2019

The RIBA Stirling Prize 2019

The highest accolade for excellence in architecture in this country is THE ROYAL INSTITUTE OF BRITISH ARCHITECTURE - STIRLING PRIZE. It is awarded annually and named after the Scottish architect James Stirling.


He was born in Glasgow in 1924 but the family moved to Liverpool when James was just an infant. He worked in partnership with James Gowan from 1956 - 1963 , then with Michael Wilford from 1971 until his death in 1992. He won many prestigious prizes the Alvo Aalto Medal the RIBA Gold Medal and many iconic buildings stand today as memorials to his enormous talent and skill. One such is the History Faculty Library at the University of Cambridge from 1968.



During the 1970s his architectural language began to change. He moved from small to large projects and became more overtly neo - classical although he also stayed deeply imbued in Modernism. three days after his knighthood was announced he died in hospital after a botched operation. The world had lost one of its great.


The Stirling prize is the highest architectural accolade in British culture and the ceremony is televised by Channel 4. Six shortlisted buildings are picked from a long list already having achieved a RIBA National Award. These awards are given to buildings that show "high architectural standards and substantial contribution to the local environment".


The shortlist for 2019 includes The Weston at the Yorkshire Sculpture Park which opened earlier this year. It is a beautiful new art gallery nestling in what is already an impressive landscape and a well loved place to view art in the outdoors. In West Bretton near Wakefield, it is a short distance for us to view such giants of the art world as Henry Moore and Barbara Hepworth. To be on the shortlist is a great achievement.


The Weston has been designed to have the minimum impact on the site and to sit sympathetically in the historic landscape. Constructed from laid pigment concrete that mirrors the strata of the sandstone bedrock. The building seems to emerge from the ground and has a concrete saw-toothed roof. Its low profile protects from motorway pollution and forms a sheltered sunken terrace with views across the land to Bretton Hall. It has a wild flower planted roof, is well insulated and naturally ventilated.


The new gallery showcases a changing programme of temporary exhibitions and inaugorating the space are Indian artists THUKRA and AGRA with their colourful installations.


The winner was announced as I finished this piece and unfortunately Yorkshire missed out. The winner is Goldsmith Street in Norwich which is a project of over 100 new ultra modern low energy homes. Perhaps a predictable winner in a country where affordable home are scarce and they were described as " moral masterpieces ".


Denise West

November 2019

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