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Exemplary designs at RIBA National Awards 2019

Eleanor Young

Cambridge carries off a clutch of awards as works by both established and up-and-coming practices head hopefully towards the Stirling Prize

Cambridge is the big winner in the RIBA National Awards. With eight National Awards for buildings in the city it has taken 15% of the total of 54 National Awards.

Sports pavilion by Robin Lee Architects at New Eddington, Cambridge.
Sports pavilion by Robin Lee Architects at New Eddington, Cambridge. Credit: Jack Hobhouse

With prosperity, ambitious growth plans and a prestigious university with its own resources and expertise in leveraging donations perhaps this is not surprising. In fact six of the winners were commissioned by the university or colleges.

This follows a pattern also seen last year when Cambridge was home to five National Award winners, including MUMA’s Storey’s Field Centre, which went on to be shortlisted for the Stirling Prize. New Eddington, originally just known as North West Cambridge, is a piece of mixed city expansion with the University of Cambridge as developer. The process has appeared exemplary and the projects that have won this year show a depth of detail comparable to that of the London 2012 development in Stratford. This year the New Eddington masterplan itself, designed by Aecom, has won an award. So too have the collection of nine sculptural utility buildings by Robin Lee Architecture that range from electricity substations to a cycle shelter and sports pavilion.

Mole Architects’ Marmalade Lane co-housing project in Cambridge.
Mole Architects’ Marmalade Lane co-housing project in Cambridge. Credit: David Butler

New Eddington has been planned for 3,000 homes. And it is notable that one of the practices, Mole Architects, whose name is popping up all over the awards, worked with Wilkinson Eyre to design another of the university’s winners on the site. Over the years Mole has worked closely with a selection of big name international architects designing Living Architecture’s gallery of remarkable houses to let. This year Mole has a National Award for its work with Atelier Peter Zumthor, at the Secular Retreat in Devon, many miles away from its Cambridge heartland. But Mole’s work also gives hope for a more accessible sort of architecture with its award winning co-housing of 42 homes in Marmalade Lane, developed in close collaboration with those who now live there. This includes shared facilities like workshop and gardens as well as play room, guest room and laundry.

Other, more established practices have also done well, most notably Haworth Tompkins with three awards, its confident and nuanced application of scrape and reveal on two theatres combined with a deep understanding of social and artistic spaces. The buildings that win National Awards have to set national standards for good architecture and demonstrate design excellence, be fit for purpose and be sustainable. This is a high bar and weeds out many submissions where the clients and architects struggled to carry their original ambitions through to realisation.

Ordsall Chord, a major piece of infrastructure for Manchester and the region, designed by BDP.
Ordsall Chord, a major piece of infrastructure for Manchester and the region, designed by BDP. Credit: Nick Caville

Three regions have been left without any awards at this level. There were none for the North East, West Midlands or Wales. For some the disappointment of not getting a National Award will be offset by House of the Year shortlisting and the TV exposure that generates, as with BPN’s Ghost House in Warwickshire. But in terms of typology it is infrastructure that is doing unusually well and it is good to see Ordsall Chord in Manchester and the capital’s London Bridge Station putting in strong showings in this area. It will be interesting to see if Crossrail projects and ultimately HS2 developments will join them in the pantheon of awards.

At this point speculation on the RIBA Journal turns to Stirling Prize contenders. The consensus emerging is that the strongest projects are those where conservation is married with intelligent design, such as Nevill Holt Opera by Witherford Watson Mann and interventions in buildings both ancient and more modern. But it’s all conjecture at this stage of course…


The winners in full

168 Upper Street (London, N1) by Groupwork

4 Pancras Square (London, W1) by Eric Parry Architects

A Restorative Rural Retreat for Sartfell (Isle of Man) by Foster Lomas

Alexandra Palace (London, N22) by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

Battersea Arts Centre (London, SW11) by Haworth Tompkins

Brentford Lock West Keelson Gardens (London, TW8) by Mæ with White Ink Architects

Bristol Old Vic by Haworth Tompkins

Coal Drops Yard (London, N1C) by Heatherwick Studio with BAM Design

Collective on Calton Hill (Edinburgh, Scotland) by Collective Architecture

Cork House (Berkshire) by Matthew Barnett Howland with Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton


Colin Connect Transport Hub and Colin Town Square (Belfast, Northern Ireland) by Hall McKnight

Eddington Masterplan, Cambridge by AECOM

Eddington, Lot 1, North West Cambridge by WilkinsonEyre with Mole Architects

Eleanor Palmer Science Lab (London, NW5) by AY Architects

Goldsmith Street (Norwich) by Mikhail Riches

Great Arthur House (London, EC1Y) by John Robertson Architects

Hackney Wick Station (London) by Landolt and Brown

Hampshire House by Niall McLaughlin Architects

Hill House Passivhaus (East Sussex) by Meloy Architects

House Lessans (Saintfield, Northern Ireland) by McGonigle McGrath

Kettle's Yard (Cambridge) by Jamie Fobert Architects

Kingswood Preparatory School and Nursery (Bath) by Stonewood Design

LAMDA (London, W14) by Niall McLaughlin Architects

London Bridge Station by Grimshaw

Mackintosh at the Willow (Glasgow, Scotland) by Simpson & Brown

Mapleton Crescent (London, SW18) by Metropolitan Workshop

Marmalade Lane Cohousing (Cambridge) by Mole Architects

Merano (London, SE1) by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners with EPR

Music School, King's College School Wimbledon (London, SW19) by Hopkins Architects

Nevill Holt Opera (Leicestershire) by Witherford Watson Mann Architects

Nithurst Farm (West Sussex) by Adam Richards Architects

North West Cambridge Utility Buildings by Robin Lee Architecture

Ordsall Chord (Manchester) by BDP

Peter Hall Performing Arts Centre (Cambridge) by Haworth Tompkins

Pitzhanger Manor and Gallery (London, W5) by Jestico + Whiles with Julian Harrap Architects

Preston Bus Station Refurbishment by John Puttick Associates with Cassidy+Ashton

Royal Opera House Open Up (London, WC2E) by Stanton Williams

Secular Retreat (Devon) by Mole Architects with Atelier Peter Zumthor

Sevenoaks School Science and Technology Centre and Global Study Centre by Tim Ronalds Architects

Signal Townhouses (London, SE1) by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

Simon Sainsbury Centre, Cambridge Judge Business School (Cambridge) by Stanton Williams

South London Gallery Fire Station (London, SE15) by 6a Architects

Southbank Centre (London, SE1) by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios with Archer Humphryes Architects

Teaching and Learning Building, University of Nottingham by Make Architects

Television Centre (London, W12) by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris with MacCreanor Lavington, Morris+Company, dRMM, Mikhail Riches, Piercy+Co, Haptic, Archer Humphreys and Coffey Architects

The Beecroft Building, University of Oxford by Hawkins\Brown

The Dorothy Garrod Building, Newnham College (Cambridge) by Walters & Cohen Architects

The Macallan Distillery (Aberlour, Scotland) by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners

The Painted Hall (London, SE10) by Hugh Broughton Architects with Martin Ashley Architects

The Queens Diamond Jubilee Galleries (London, SW1) by MUMA LLP

The Weston, Yorkshire Sculpture Park by Feilden Fowles Architects

V&A Dundee by Kengo Kuma & Associates with Architects and James F Stephen Architects

Westminster Abbey Triforium Project (London, SW1) by Ptolemy Dean Architects

Writ in Water (Runnymede, Surrey) by Studio Octopi


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