Astley Castle by Witherford Watson Mann Architects wins RIBA Stirling Prize

Astley Castle, a groundbreaking modern holiday home inserted into the crumbling walls of an ancient moated castle, in Warwickshire by Witherford Watson Mann Architects has won the coveted RIBA Stirling Prize 2013 for the best building of the year. Now in its 18th year, the RIBA Stirling Prize is the UK’s most prestigious architecture prize.  It the first time that either a house or a conservation project have won the prize.

The presentation of the RIBA Stirling Prize trophy to Witherford Watson Mann Architects took place at a special ceremony this evening (Thursday 26 September) at Central Saint Martins, King’s Cross, London.

Astley Castle is a 12th century fortified manor which had been lying in ruins since a fire gutted it in 1978.  When the architects came to work on the building it was in a state of collapse and on the Heritage at Risk Register. What has been built is no straightforward restoration, the building had seen additions and revisions carried out in almost every century since Medieval times, so knowing which period to emulate would have been impossible. The architects solution was to stabilise the ruin and create the next layer of the building’s history. The result is a highly complex and original new house giving the castle’s visitors a truly unique experience.

Speaking tonight, RIBA President Stephen Hodder said:

“Astley Castle is an exceptional example of how modern architecture can revive an ancient monument. It is significant because rather than a conventional restoration project, the architects have designed an incredibly powerful contemporary house which is expertly and intricately intertwined with 800 years of history. Every detail has been carefully considered, from a specific brick pattern to the exact angle of a view, resulting in a sensually rich experience for all who visit. This beautiful new building is a real labour of love. It was realised in true collaboration between a visionary client, designer and contractors. I am delighted to present Witherford Watson Mann with the 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize.”

This is the first time Witherford Watson Mann has won or been shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize. Their previous buildings include the Amnesty International UK headquarters, the Whitechapel Art Gallery extension in London with Robbrecht en Daem, and Arts Council Manchester.

Anna Keay, Director of Landmark Trust, who commissioned Witherford Watson Mann Architects to work on Astley Castle said:

“We are absolutely thrilled with what WWM have achieved at Astley Castle. The Landmark Trust found their approach compelling from the moment they first described it, and their commitment to immaculate quality in execution was truly remarkable”

Astley Castle was chosen by the judges from the following outstanding shortlisted entries:

  • Bishop King Edward Chapel, Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire by Niall McLaughlin Architects
  • Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre, Northern Ireland by heneghan peng architects
  • Newhall Be, Harlow by Alison Brooks Architects
  • Park Hill Phase 1, Sheffield by Hawkins\Brown with Studio Egret West
  • University of Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects

The 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize judges were: Sheila O’Donnell – architect, O’Donnell + Tuomey; Paul Williams – architect, Stanton Williams; Dame Vivien Duffield – philanthropist and Chair of the Clore Duffield Foundation; Tom Dyckhoff – journalist and broadcaster and RIBA President Stephen Hodder.

The winners of the RIBA Lubetkin Prize for the best international building and three special awards were also announced this evening:

  • Cool Conservatories, Gardens by the Bay, Singapore by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, won the RIBA Lubetkin Prize for the most outstanding work of international architecture outside the EU by a member of the RIBA. This is the second year running for Wilkinson Eyre Architects, who won the prize last year for Guangzhou International Finance Centre.
  • Slip House in Brixton, South London, by Carl Turner Architects won the RIBA Manser Medal for the best new private home.
  • Montpelier Community Nursery by AY architects won the RIBA’s 2013 Stephen Lawrence Prize. Set up in memory of Stephen Lawrence who was setting out on the road to becoming an architect when he was murdered in 1993 and funded by the Marco Goldschmied Foundation, the prize rewards the best project with a construction budget of less than £1 million and is intended to encourage fresh talent working with smaller budgets
  • The National Trust won the 2013 RIBA Client of the Year. The award recognizes the role good clients play in the delivery of fine architecture.

The Architects’ Journal is the trade media partner for the RIBA Stirling Prize and special awards.