RIBA Regional Award 2014: East
Meredith Bowles, Cambridge: East Anglia is curiously conservative – a rural region with three university towns; Cambridge, Norwich and Colchester. It retains a medieval quality, the result of massive depopulation in the 19th century. It is the English region with the highest proportion of the population living in the countryside, as well as a higher than average age, earnings, and conservative newspaper readership. Support for contemporary architecture in the 20th century came largely from the universities, with buildings such as Faber Dumas or Stansted airport being an exception to the rule. But in recent years the conservative stranglehold has loosened, with schools, community buildings and private institutions wanting buildings of quality. The Norfolk and Suffolk coasts – Islington-by-sea – produce individual one-off houses; an exception in both value and taste.
Jay Merrick introduced the regional Awards at Downing College Cambridge, hosted by RIBA East in Quinlan and Francis Terry’s Howard Theatre, as if to make the point. Jay’s introduction expressed distaste for the fashion to create ‘world class’ buildings, noting the shortlist’s quiet and thoughtful integrity. These express something of the region; quiet and considered, many in rural locations. The universities and colleges again provided opportunities for larger buildings. A number of shortlisted housing schemes reflected the region’s growth.
Proctor Matthews won an award for its Colchester supported housing scheme, although not for its Great Kneighton housing for Countryside, the best developer housing in Cambridge. Representative of the best conservation work on medieval buildings – of which the region has much to treasure – Kay Pilsbury Thomas Architects was rewarded for painstaking work on Finchingfield Guildhall. Cowper Griffiths Architects won Architect of the Year; working in the region since 1985, it has seen a shift towards an acceptance of the contextual modernism in which it excels, and Jay Merrick applauds.
Meredith Bowles is director of Mole Architects
Conservation Award: Finchingfield Guildhall
Sustainability Award: Ash Court
Small Project Award: Wildfowl Cottage
Client of the Year: High House Artist Studios
Architect of the Year: Cowper Griffith Architects
Emerging Architect of the Year: HAT Projects
Building of the Year: The Arboretum