2013 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist announced for the best new building

The shortlist for the prestigious 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize for the best new building has been announced (Thursday 18 July). Six exciting and exceptional buildings will now go head to head for architecture’s highest accolade from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).

The 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist features the vibrant reinvention of a 1960s Sheffield housing block Park Hill; the bar-raising suburban Essex housing development Newhall Be; a contemporary new holiday home within the burnt-out shell of the 12th centuryAstley Castle; the highly original and beautifully crafted Bishop Edward King Chapel; the dramatic and monumental Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre and the sculptural yet economic University of Limerick Medical School and student housing.

The RIBA is working in partnership with the BBC on the 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize; The Architects’ Journal is trade media partner.

This year’s RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist features some ‘fresh’ architecture talent – five of the six practices are on the list for the first time, beating-off competition from previous winners including Sir David Chipperfield and Dame 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.

The six architecture practices competing for this year’s title (and their odds according to William Hill) are:

Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, Northern Ireland by heneghan peng architects
William Hill odds: 3/1
Breaks the mould of the traditional visitor centre that tends to hide from the limelight or make a statement, this highly imaginative and sculptural piece of ‘land art’ offers visitors an experience that is physical and interactive, like the causeway itself. Having ‘tuned in’ so perfectly to the environment, the visitor centre acts as the perfect prologue for the main event.

Park Hill Phase 1, Sheffield by Hawkins\Brown with Studio Egret West
William Hill odds: 9/1
Reinvention of the loved and loathed Grade II* listed 1960s housing estate. The structure of the building remained in place whilst key features were changed – interior layout, windows, security and much more. It stands as a beacon for imaginative regeneration, quality mass housing and the bold reuse of a listed building.

Newhall Be, Harlow by Alison Brooks Architects
William Hill odds: 3/1
The radical re-thinking of the shape and interior of the UK house is tackled masterfully with these 84 new homes in suburban Essex that clearly illustrate that good design quality and committed developers can transform peoples’ lives. A new model for British housing?

Astley Castle, Warwickshire by Witherford Watson Mann Architects
William Hill odds: 6/1
Beautiful contemporary Landmark Trust holiday home installed in the ruined walls of a 12th century manor. Unique example of the recovery of an ancient building – it is a prototype for a bold new attitude to restoration and reuse.

University of Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects
William Hill odds: 6/1
Exceptional example of how to create a vibrant new public space through the careful design and placement of buildings. High-quality, beautiful and dramatic buildings that punch far above their rock-bottom budget.

Bishop Edward King Chapel, Oxfordshire by Niall McLaughlin Architects
William Hill odds: 9/4
An uplifting spiritual space of great potency that the client has described as ‘what we dreamed of but didn’t think we would get’. An incredible showcase for modern British craftsmanship.

The six shortlisted buildings range dramatically in size and purpose, but all will be judged by the same criteria: their design excellence and their significance to the evolution of architecture and the built environment.

Housing is a key highlight of the shortlist, with the projects at Newhall Be and Park Hill offering two very different answers to the quality and quantity crisis of British housing. They both show that with vision, careful-crafted design and a committed developer, great things really can be achieved.

The question of how to re-use historic listed buildings is boldly answered twice, with Park Hill and Astley Castle, both Grade II* listed. Challenging the traditional ideas of conservation and restoration, the architects have creatively re-invented these buildings within their existing structures, with astounding results. The Giant’s Causeway Visitors’ Centre worked within the constraints of a UNESCO site and Area of Outstanding Natural Beauty, to create something that also rose far above the expectations posed by its challenges.

Exquisite detailing abounds in all six projects, perhaps most potently in the Bishop Edward King Chapel in Oxfordshire whose rich stone façade and timber interior provide some of the best examples of craftsmanship the judges have seen for some time. Attention to detail has also transformed Limerick Medical School’s simple teaching and study areas into rich, theatrical spaces – all on an incredibly modest budget (€1,220 per sq m).

Angela Brady, RIBA President, said:

‘The RIBA Stirling Prize is awarded to the building that has made the biggest contribution to the evolution of architecture, and nowhere is the need for fresh-thinking needed more than in housing. The UK is blighted with unimaginative, poor quality houses that people don’t want to live in but have little other choice, so I am delighted to see two amazing and highly original housing projects on this year’s shortlist. These projects show how when talented architects and clients work together and focus on quality, affordable and desirable new homes can be created. They shine a light on what the future of UK housing can be.

All six shortlisted projects are ground-breaking in their own way – buildings that deliver more than could ever have been expected. Some of them, such as Park Hill and the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, are genuinely courageous in laying out a new visionary approach.

This RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist is sending out the clear message that creative vision improves our lives.’

The winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize will be announced on the evening of Thursday 26 September at Central Saint Martins, King’s Cross, designed by last year’s RIBA Stirling Prize winner Stanton Williams.

The 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize judges who will visit the six shortlisted buildings and meet for a final time on the day of the presentation (26 September) to pick the winner are: Stephen Hodder – architect and RIBA President Elect (President: 01/09/13; Sheila O’Donnell – architect, O’Donnell + Tuomey; Paul Williams – architect, Stanton Williams; Dame Vivien Duffield – philanthropist and Chair of the Clore Duffield Foundation; and Tom Dyckhoff – journalist and broadcaster.

Previous winners of the RIBA Stirling Prize include: Sainsbury Laboratory by Stanton Williams (2012); Evelyn Grace Academy (2011) and MAXXI Museum, Rome (2010) both by Zaha Hadid Architects; Maggie’s Centre at Charing Cross Hospital, London by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners (2009); Accordia housing development by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios/Alison Brooks Architects/Maccreanor Lavington (2008); The Museum of Modern Literature, Marbach am Neckar, Germany by David Chipperfield Architects (2007).