On 21 June 2018, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced the 49 winners of the 2018 RIBA National Awards for architecture. The RIBA awards, which have been presented since 1966, recognise the best new buildings and provide an insight into the UK’s cultural, design and construction trends.
This year’s winners range in scale from significant major cultural buildings (Tate St Ives and Royal Birmingham Conservatoire) and striking additions to the London skyline (Bloomberg and The Leadenhall Building), to tiny projects and hidden gems, such as the sculptural Bethnal Green Memorial which commemorates the 173 people who died in the Bethnal Green tube disaster of 1943, and Lochside House, an exemplary sustainable home set in the West Highlands.
Key trends illustrated by the 2018 RIBA National Award winners include:
Buildings with dual or multiple functions to benefit local communities
Projects amongst the winners include a bold new cultural building which provides Chester with a library-by-day and theatre-by-night (Storyhouse); a sustainable nursery-cum-community hall (Storey’s Field Community Centre and Nursery, Cambridge); a commercial office space including restaurants, bars and a cinema (R7, London) and a former dilapidated department store dating from 1906 which has been renovated to provide work and social spaces for local businesses, including a community Post Office (The Department Store, London).
Use of building materials which are sensitive to the local context
At the V&A Exhibition Road Quarter, the limited choice of materials – ceramic and timber – roll, kink and step to create a fluid new entrance which enhances the much-loved museum; at Walthamstow Wetlands, a vast, reclaimed expanse of land and waterscapes, two historic buildings have been transformed into a visitor centre and viewing platform, using a palette of sensitively chosen bricks and wood and in Liverpool the run down Royal Court has been stripped back to its original materials and given a new lease of life with a new foyer, studio theatre and bar, created on a modest budget and in keeping with the original spirit of the building as a hardworking venue.
High quality housing schemes – illustrating the benefits of local authority-led regeneration
Examples include the large-scale, community and local authority-led redevelopment of the Kings Crescent Estate in east London, where the London Borough of Hackney have upgraded existing housing with large balconies and community spaces including winter gardens, courtyards, and a street designed specifically for children to play; Royal Albert Wharf Phase 1 which creates a new mixed-tenure waterside London community; the refurbishment of three Grade II listed cast-iron Gasholders, part of the renewal of the Kings Cross area; and the expertly-designed student accommodation of Chadwick Hall, London, built cleverly between a listed building and modernist flats and on an extremely low budget.
Reuse and regeneration – particularly in the commercial sector where there is a strong demand for contemporary offices in characterful existing buildings
Examples include the revival of four derelict warehouse buildings in a Sheffield conservation area (Albert Works); the elegant renovation of an Art Deco office (25 Savile Row, London); the sensitive refurbishment and extension of a Victorian warehouse in south London (53 Great Suffolk Street) and the restoration of a former Peckham stationery shop into an office for an architecture firm (Knox Bhavan Studio).
RIBA President Ben Derbyshire said:
“For over 50 years the RIBA Awards have celebrated the best new buildings, large or small; shining a light on trends in the construction industry, and illustrating why the UK’s architects and architecture have an enviable global reputation.
“I am particularly pleased to see some excellent examples of large-scale housing schemes amongst this year’s winners. Projects such as these are beacons showing how it is possible for enlightened local authorities and developers to create the well-designed, desirable and sustainable homes that communities so desperately need.
“From exceptional mixed-use buildings that bring a community together, and breathing new life into dilapidated historic buildings, to getting the best value from an awkward site or limited budget, every one of this year’s award winners is a testament to the architects’ skill in solving a range of challenges to create projects that will inspire and delight their users and communities for years to come.”
Six of the 2018 RIBA National Award winners will go on to be shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize. The full list of the 2018 RIBA National Award winners can be viewed here.