ISG’s Whitworth Scheme Pipped to RIBA Stirling Prize

ISG’s extension and refurbishment of The Whitworth Gallery, designed by MUMA, missed out on taking the top prize in architecture last night – the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize 2015 – despite topping the architectural industry and BBC’s readers’ poll with 38 percent of the popular vote. Burntwood School in Wandsworth was ultimately crowned winner on the night.

The extension to the red brick Edwardian building, which forms part of the University of Manchester and holds an international collection of more than 55,000 artworks, has seen the building integrate its internal space with the adjacent Whitworth Park, combining art and nature inside and out.

Despite missing out on the Stirling Prize – the project has already been awarded numerous accolades since the completed museum re-opened to the public in February, including three RIBA North West Awards 2015, a RIBA National Award 2015 and, most recently, The Art Fund Prize for Museum of the Year.

The technically complex project involved construction of a two-storey extension to the rear and side elevations of the Grade II listed building, along with refurbishment of the existing galleries. The extension incorporates red brick and glazed facade elements to complement the original structure, while doubling the public exhibition space to around 4,300 square foot. A glazed promenade gallery with education space and café overlooking the park entices visitors inside the gallery through a new entrance with a roof-mounted illuminated installation ‘Gathering of Strangers’ by artist Nathan Coley.

Restoration works formed a key element of the project, with ISG stripping out 1960s era suspended ceilings to reveal the original Edwardian structure and refurbishing the three existing galleries, as well as the creation of versatile new exhibition areas and a new basement level collections section.

ISG also delivered an energy-efficient ‘passive first’ mechanical and electrical services installation, including a ground source heat pump, to achieve a BREEAM Excellent environmental performance rating for the modernised Whitworth.

Delivered to unprecedented quality standards, the gallery and public areas contain no exposed services to provide uncluttered walls and ceilings for displays. The interior fit out focused on craftsmanship and natural materials, including wood, stone and metal, drawing on ISG’s experience of high-end refurbishment across the hospitality, retail and corporate interiors.

Phil Brown, ISG’s UK Construction managing director, commented:

“Securing the popular vote but missing out on the main prize is of course disappointing, but we are delighted that so many people voted for The Whitworth Gallery as their winner this year. Congratulations are certainly due to Burntwood School and AHMM as worthy winners of the award, and it’s particularly pleasing to see such high levels of engagement and enthusiasm for exceptional design and delivery in the built environment.

“Responding to a design brief that called for the gallery to be connected to the surrounding park, making The Whitworth more accessible and inviting to visitors has been key to this successful transformation. Our challenge was to deliver that vision while forming a structurally complex extension and completing an interior fit out that is respectful of its historical setting and sympathetic to the clean lines of the architectural design.

“We’d like to congratulate both the University of Manchester and MUMA on making the coveted shortlist and winning the popular vote for the RIBA Stirling Prize 2015, revitalising this important cultural destination for future generations to enjoy The Whitworth Gallery’s outstanding artistic collections.”