Ask the client

We asked clients around the country, who have all worked on award winning projects themselves, about their favourite RIBA Award winners from the past. Interviews by Pamela Buxton

The RIBA Awards show a surprisingly healthy set of architectural results despite the downturn of the last five years. Fifty buildings, 43 in the UK, have won a National Award. They show the battle for quality being waged by clients as much as architects. So RIBAJ has asked some of the clients of earlier award winning buildings to pick their best buildings of today.

They have come back with a mixture of delight and amazement at the projects in their area: from Ged Simmonds of Laing O’Rourke’s gruff affirmation of the light airiness of Kingswood Academy, to Kielder’s Peter Sharpe on the struggle to make interesting architecture in the current climate and Mclaren’s Adrian Brooks on the ‘stunning’ Bishop Edward King Chapel (a Stirling nominee for sure). As Sheila O’Donnell, architect of last year’s Stirling shortlist Lyric Theatre Belfast, joins the Stirling judging panel we asked the Lyric chief executive about the city’s Stirling-tipped Mac. He gave a generous endorsement: could it be a sign of things to come? Look out for the Stirling shortlist on 18 July and the winner on 26 September.


 

  • Newhall Be, Harlow, Essex by Alison Brooks Architects for Linden Homes Eastern.
    Newhall Be, Harlow, Essex by Alison Brooks Architects for Linden Homes Eastern. · Credit: Paul riddle
  • Crowbrook, Ware, Hertfordshire by Knox Bhavan Architects for Mark & Bee de Rivaz.
    Crowbrook, Ware, Hertfordshire by Knox Bhavan Architects for Mark & Bee de Rivaz. · Credit: Dennis Gilbert

East: Newhall Be and Crowbrook
Stuart A Johnson, director of Stuart A Johnson Consulting, and strategic project manager and funder’s adviser for Sainsbury Laboratory, Cambridge 
Worked on Sainsbury Laboratory, RIBA Award 2012

Newhall is very exciting as a departure from the little boxes standard house types, which are one of my pet hates. In all other types of architecture design moves forward and responds to change but when on the site of big house builders, if you squint you could be back in the 1980s, or even 1950s. I’m a great fan of architects using traditional massing and materials in a modern way. This development is genuinely exciting. And at Crowbrook, the access provision is tremendous. I always try to encourage clients to work to Lifetime Homes standards.


 

Jesmond Gardens Primary School, Hartlepool, Cleveland by ADP for Hartlepool Borough Council.
Jesmond Gardens Primary School, Hartlepool, Cleveland by ADP for Hartlepool Borough Council. · Credit: Nick Guttridge

North East: Jesmond Gardens Primary School
Peter Sharpe, curator of Kielder Art & Architecture
Worked on 55/02, RIBA Award  2011

They’ve done very well to build Jesmond Gardens Primary School. I’d certainly say that the North East is struggling to put together projects in the current funding situation. Things that I’d identify as more interesting are less likely to get past the ideas stage, and simply go cold.  The local council is the client for this school. Where we are in Northumberland, the council is busy trying to save 30%. We find organisations like councils will very quickly make decisions on what position they’ll withdraw to. Arts and cultural things are often on the list of what have become luxuries. 

I’m interested that the classrooms at Jesmond Gardens aren’t traditional. I wonder if anyone would propose that if they were starting a school project now?


 

Chedworth Roman Villa, Yanworth, Gloucestershire by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios for  National Trust.
Chedworth Roman Villa, Yanworth, Gloucestershire by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios for National Trust. · Credit: John Dawson

South West: Chedworth Roman Villa
Tony Prescott, operations manager, Aardman Animations
Worked on Aardman HQ, Bristol, RIBA Award  2010

I recently visited Chedworth Roman Villa (helpfully set in a stunning location) and it presented me with a wonderful leisure experience and immersive history lesson. I feel it is a high quality, sympathetic and appropriate treatment of the site. This project wasn’t just about the building itself, but about the whole exhibit and sensitively presenting the remains.  It draws people into the villa and immerses them in a sense of what it must have been like to live and work 2000 years ago.


 

  • Bishop Edward King Chapel, Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire by Níall McLaughlin Architects for Ripon College and Community of St John the Baptist.
    Bishop Edward King Chapel, Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire by Níall McLaughlin Architects for Ripon College and Community of St John the Baptist. · Credit: Dennis Gilbert
  • Colyer-Fergusson Building, Canterbury, Kent by Tim Ronalds Architects for the University of Kent.
    Colyer-Fergusson Building, Canterbury, Kent by Tim Ronalds Architects for the University of Kent.

South and South East: Bishop Edward King Chapel, the Colyer-Fergusson Building and Jerwood Gallery
Adrian Brooks, project manager for McLaren
Worked on Mclaren Production Centre, RIBA Award 2012

For me, the project that really stands out from the Southern region is the Bishop Edward King Chapel (above). It’s clad in stone – which is always nice to see – and looks great from the outside, but on the inside it looks really stunning with a suitably ethereal feel to the space. From the South East winners, the Colyer-Fergusson Building (right) appeals most. Externally it is very understated but the interior space, with the great timber-clad auditorium, looks fantastic. The Jerwood Gallery in Hastings looks pretty functional architecturally – probably a response to planning requirements – although the architect has attempted to create material interest with the use of oily tiles on the outside.


 

St. Silas School, Blackburn by Capita Symonds Architecture for Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council.
St. Silas School, Blackburn by Capita Symonds Architecture for Blackburn with Darwen Borough Council. · Credit: Nick Guttridge

North West: St Silas School, Cheshire Oaks M&S
Guy Butler, senior development manager, Grosvenor
Worked on Liverpool One, RIBA Award 2009

My favourite is the St Silas School (left).  You’d be proud to have that in your neighbourhood. The materials must be budget with only a £7.5m spend – but they’ve been used cleverly and I love the elevated play area.  I’m against the Cheshire Oaks M&S from a town planning perspective and externally I’m not a fan, but the interior looks stunning.  I love the use of timber – it’s good to see sustainable products being used. This is not a budget scheme and I am impressed with the M&S commitment to deliver something that’s quality.  It is just in the wrong location! 


 

Kingswood Academy, Bransholme, Kingston upon Hull by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris for Hull City Council and Esteem.
Kingswood Academy, Bransholme, Kingston upon Hull by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris for Hull City Council and Esteem. · Credit: Rob Parish

Yorkshire: Kingswood Academy
Ged Simmonds, northern operations manager, Laing O’Rourke
Worked on Kirk Baulk Community College, RIBA Award 2012

Personally I’ve never been a fan of Park Hill – I believe it should never have been listed and should have been knocked down. Although I’m sure they’ve made the best of it and that what they’ve done inside is great, it is still an oppressive, ugly, and imposing building. 
We’ve worked quite a lot with AHMM and they’ve done a nice job at Kingswood Academy (above). It’s such a nice, bright airy space – typical AHMM.


 

  • University of Aberdeen New Library/Sir Duncan Rice Library, Aberdeen by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects for University of Aberdeen.
    University of Aberdeen New Library/Sir Duncan Rice Library, Aberdeen by Schmidt Hammer Lassen Architects for University of Aberdeen. · Credit: Adam Moerk
  • The Chapel of Saint Albert the Great, George Square, Edinburgh by Simpson & Brown Architects for The Order of Preachers.
    The Chapel of Saint Albert the Great, George Square, Edinburgh by Simpson & Brown Architects for The Order of Preachers. · Credit: Chris Humphreys

Scotland: The Chapel of Saint Albert the Great, Forth Valley College and University of Aberdeen New Library
John M Maclean, principal architect, South Ayrshire Council
Worked on Heathfield Primary School, RIBA Award 2012

The Chapel of Saint Albert the Great (above) is an elegant and delightful solution with elements of Le Corbusier’s Ronchamp, creating a very simple space to worship in. The restrained use of materials and the setting will change the appearance with each season. I like the roof almost appearing to cantilever across the room and being kept short of the wall to allow in light but still create privacy. Beautiful.

Forth Valley College Of Further Education – Stirling Campus illustrates how something simple can be well crafted to create an excellent building. It’s good to see education buildings of quality being acknowledged and I hope that the designs being brought forward through the Scottish Futures Trust take up this challenge to ensure that future education (and other public funded buildings) set a high standard rather than striving for mediocrity.  

University of Aberdeen New Library (below) is a jewel box that is a fresh building in the grey granite city. Again, education gains an inspirational building that it would be a pleasure to learn in.


 

Eastside City Park, Curzon Street, Birmingham, by Patel Taylor for Birmingham City Council.
Eastside City Park, Curzon Street, Birmingham, by Patel Taylor for Birmingham City Council. · Credit: Tim Soar

West Midlands: Eastside City Park
Neil Edginton, director of Birmingham-based developer EDG Properties
Worked on The Cube, RIBA Award 2012

There’ve been some really interesting buildings and public spaces here in recent years and we’ve seen the quality of architecture rise and rise. It’s been a really difficult few years, but I think it’s helped in that the old models were very simple. Now every part of the design has to work a bit harder. You can’t just roll out standard stuff anymore.

My favourite of the winners is Eastside City Park. Eastside has transformed and what was needed was a really nice piece of public realm to sew together all the more random buildings that were popping up into a really important piece of civic space. It juxtaposes hard and soft landscape, and as soon as we get some sun, that place will be absolutely rammed.


 

Beveridge Mews, Stepney Green Estate, London by Peter Barber Architects for Southern Housing Group.
Beveridge Mews, Stepney Green Estate, London by Peter Barber Architects for Southern Housing Group. · Credit: Morley von Sternberg

London: Beveridge Mews
Harry Handlesman, CEO, Manhatten Loft Corporation
Worked on St Pancras Chambers, RIBA Award 2012

Terrific that the winners are good architecture but a pity there’s no commercial residential. Sadly housebuilders are not really keen on architecture but on how quickly and easily they can sell in the Far East. Beveridge Mews is interesting in how it works in the context of the houses opposite. Would you rather be in Peter Barber’s building looking at them, or in those looking at the new building? So he created a terrace on the upper level where you feel you are within interesting modern architecture, rather than the less interesting surroundings. 


 

The MAC, Belfast by Hackett Hall McKnight for The MAC.
The MAC, Belfast by Hackett Hall McKnight for The MAC. · Credit: Christian Richters

Northern Ireland: The Mac and the Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre
Ciarán McAuley, chief executive of The Lyric Theatre, Belfast
Worked on the Lyric Theatre, RIBA Award 2012

The Mac and the Giant’s Causeway visitor centre are both great projects, and it’s fantastic and interesting that they are cultural projects. The more opportunities in the region to experience art and culture, the more people’s awareness rises and creates a greater sense that it’s something they should do. Both are very useable and work very well practically. The Mac (left) has had a definite regenerative effect around the Cathedral quarter and has attracted visitors to the area, and there is a greater sense of life and activity in what was a run-down industrial area. 

The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre is very popular. It’s unobtrusive and it is impressive how it doesn’t affect the landscape greatly, but when you go inside there’s a lot of space.