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Roll-up, Roll-up - Everyman a Winner. Stirling Prize 2014

17 October 2014 | Updated 01 January 1970

In something of a shock decision, Liverpool's new Everyman Theatre has won the coveted Stirling Prize and beaten the favourites - the LSE’s student centre in Aldwych and the Library of Birmingham - to British architecture's most coveted gong for a new building whilst also ousting the Shard, the re-built Olympics aquatics centre and the Manchester School of Art. Haworth Tompkins architects also walked away with a cheque for £20,000.

Everyman Theatre

The new Everyman is built on the site of the beloved theatre of the same name that stood on the site in a converted chapel since the 1960s. It draws on the themes and ideas of Haworth Tomkins’ previous theatre work at Royal Court and Young Vic. Here all is new-build, yet it has the ambience of an old building, in part down to the use of recycled and exposed brick in the major areas of auditorium, bars and circulation. This is a building that breathes quality in its choice of materials, in its lighting and its signage. Everything has been thought about over and over and the right decisions reached. The tour de force is the first floor bar, a piano nobile stretching across the front of the building. Tucked in behind is a nook of a writer’s room with the air of a gentlemen’s club. The auditorium, with its burnt orange upholstery, is a clever cross between Matcham and the cosy cinema feel of the original.

The old theatre was though totally unsuited for productions and audiences in the 21st century.  Consequently, the challenge to build a new purpose-built theatre on the site of the original was a brave but key move by the client team.

In selecting Haworth Tompkins they found a partner who understood the essence of the organisation and its ambitions. Consequently over the past nine years they have worked closely together to deliver a building of outstanding quality that retains the unique values of the Everyman.

The new building includes a technically advanced and highly adaptable 400 seat theatre which exactly mirrors the shape of the original, smaller performance spaces, rehearsal room, a sumptuous green room, public foyer, café and bar along with supporting office and ancillary spaces. Back and front of house are turned out using the same materials and with the same attention to detail. Haworth Tompkins have created a building that instinctively you want to reach out and touch; its handrails, walls and exquisite purpose-built joinery are all equally tactile. The concrete is good but never precious. However none of the elements shouts out, together they simply add to the whole, amplifying this exceptional piece of architecture.

The most discussed (and locally loved) feature of the new Everyman is the etched metal brises soleil on the facade featuring 105 full-length cut-out figures based on photographs of Liverpudlians.

Client: The Liverpool and Merseyside Theatres Trust

Contractor: Gilbert-Ash

Structural Engineer: Alan Baxter & Associates

Services Engineer: Watermans Building Services

Contract Value: £13.3m

Date of completion: October 2013

Gross internal area: 4,300sq.m


The other buildings shortlisted for the 2014 RIBA Stirling Prize were:

London Aquatics Centre by Zaha Hadid Architects

Flexible buildings are generally dull; compromise means that none of the functions are properly served.  At the Olympic Park ZHA designed for legacy a world-class building with a distinctive curvaceous form. Then they designed the removable ‘wings’ that accommodated the additional seating required by spectators during the Olympics. It is subsequent clipping of the wings that has allowed the building, architecturally speaking, to fly free.

The concept was inspired by the fluid geometry of water in motion, creating spaces and a surrounding environment in sympathy with the river landscape of the Olympic Park.  An undulating roof sweeps up from the ground like a wave folding over the building, defining the separate practice and performance-cum-diving pool halls. The main hall, with its acoustically treated timber ceiling, allows for normal conversation across the screeches of delighted swimmers.

Despite the unusually stringent demand for the building to work as both an Olympic venue and, in its purer form, a public swimming pool, the resulting Centre has proved successful in both scenarios. There were exceptionally complex site constraints: it was tightly bounded by a main railway line to the east, the Waterworks River to the west and underground power lines running the length of the site. The main pedestrian access route had to be via Stratford City Bridge, a new pedestrian route. The solution was to have a podium encasing the main pool hall, on axis, perpendicular to the bridge, off which is the entrance, with the training pools slotted under the bridge within the podium.

The building has three main components: a cast in-situ concrete podium; a wide spanning steel roof, encased in timber louvres on its underbelly  and  aluminium cladding, with standing seams on top. Glazed facades infill between the two, with bronze coloured aluminium frames.

This building's sustainability credentials are inherent and exemplary; it achieved a BREEAM Innovation Credit for its unusual use of concrete mixes which far exceeded ODA targets. The detail of the strategy is thorough and complex. As examples, the design team maximised energy efficiencies including incorporating very high levels of insulation, a well-sealed envelope, low-velocity ventilation systems with highly efficient heat recovery and water-based heating systems with variable speed pumps. Both the temporary and the permanent condition were considered equally and the former was easily demountable and the materials chosen so they could be recycled - parts of the wings have already been rebuilt elsewhere as a training centre for teenagers.

The main pool is naturally lit. Mechanical systems have adaptable controls for maximum efficiencies in use and the building is connected to the district heating system. Aggregates and cement replacement material were recycled materials. Potable water demands were reduced by over 40% by reusing backwash in WCs and urinals; low-flow showers and basins deliver 35% savings. Rainwater harvesting provides irrigation for the green wall at the southern end of the building

Overall this is a very beautiful building; it is sensual in its form with a generosity of space. It works very practically and is well built with very high quality finishes. This is a great building of our times, its pure and powerful form is conceptually flawless; and undoubtedly it will be a favourite venue for Londoners for generations to come.










Library of Birmingham by Mecanoo

Who said the book is dead? If the book is dead, long live the library. While other local authorities are doing the government’s bidding in implementing spending cuts, saving pennies by closing libraries, albeit at the expense of our children’s futures, Birmingham has invested heavily in the power of the word.

It takes good architects to give form to the political will and the City of Birmingham has appointed successive excellent firms to do so, first Rogers whose fine design was never realised, and latterly Mecanoo whose first major UK project this represents. Playing an important role in Birmingham’s Centenary Square, the new Library of Birmingham is an impressive and bold addition to the city, a truly public and civic building. It has set a precedent for the scale of the buildings on the square, which helps to animate the place and stipulate a sense of enclosure. For the city, this is a significant public sector investment, which has not only provided a new integrated public library but also helped to regenerate the city’s cultural heart and helped link the Westside to the city core. 

Its intriguing section connects the building’s internal atrium to the square outside, creating a number of levels where users can enjoy the spaces. The journey through the building reveals itself through an interlocking atrium, tying together a range of volumes and providing glimpses of natural light.

From the ‘Harry Potter’ rotunda to the ‘Willy Wonka’ glass lift, not to mention the more pedestrian escalators, the library is a journey up through the five floors of the book rotunda which houses the reference library – akin to the British Museum Reading Room – to the archives placed counter-intuitively but successfully on the upper floors. This is a journey of discovery and fun for all ages and backgrounds. The library has bought millions of people into the city and demonstrated how powerful architecture can play a role in the lives of communities.

The interesting filigree screen on the elevations creates a strong sense of place and ever changing vistas from within. Externally, it is the signature of this landmark and lends grace to the otherwise box-like forms of the three stacked palazzos. It also reflects the heritage of Birmingham’s Jewellery Quarter and plays out in shadows and reflections on the library’s walls and floors. The elevated, landscaped gardens on the upper floors not only provide a sanctuary in an urban location but breath-taking views across the city.

The relationship to the Repertory Theatre including a 300-seat auditorium and reinstatement of the Shakespeare room are amongst some of the unique spaces in the new library complex. The library is a world-class facility for a world-class city with formal and informal spaces for reading, relaxing, playing and participating in the programme of events. It has become a heart to the city’s cultural destination, transforming Centenary Square from an interim space to a vibrant city square. It has also changed the traditional perception of a library to one where families and readers can spend a whole day learning and engaging. The John Madin brutalist predecessor library will be much missed but its joyful 21st century replacement has already claimed its place in Brummies’ hearts.






COST: £186,000,000


Carillion takes top award for Library of Birmingham

Carillion, has won the major Project of the Year (over £50 million) category at the Construction News Awards, for the groundbreaking Library of Birmingham. The Construction News awards showcase the best ideas and achievements from the past 12 months in construction.

Carillion was responsible for bringing to life the design by Francine Houben of Dutch firm Mecannoo Architecten. 

Recognising the potential for the project to stimulate local employmet regeneration, Carillion also committed to creating 250 local employment opportunities and 25 apprenticeships for people not in employment or training within its tender proposal – targets that were far exceeded.

Simon Dingle, Operations Director for Carillion, commented: “Winning this award is a fantastic achievement.  The Library of Birmingham is a seminal building for the city and it’s a privilege to have been part of its development..”

Carillion fought of stiff competition to win the award, including projects such as the British Museum, Manchester Metrolink and Brent Civic Centre.


London Bridge Tower (The Shard) by Renzo Piano Building Workshop

1.2 million square feet of accommodation has been built on a small parcel of land directly next to one of London's major transport hubs. To make a tower on such a tight site a thing of great beauty is a rare achievement. Six uses occupy multiple floors: health clinic, offices, restaurants, hotel, residential apartments and public viewing gallery; to create a ‘vertical village’. The building is omnipresent in London and has added immeasurably to the city.


London School of Economics - Saw Swee Hock Student Centre by O’Donnell + Tuomey Architects

This is an object lesson in creating a surprising and startlingly original building on a difficult urban site. Every angled facet responds to the rights of light of its neighbours.  Formed as a continuous spiral rising upwards, the outer brick walls slope and twist, gouged with cuts and cracks that give light and form. The floors take up complex shapes, yet all the spaces feel natural and functional.  This is a building showing a high degree of craftsmanship.


Manchester School of Art by Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios

The major refurbishment of a 1960s tower and the creation of a new building with open studios and workshops has been executed with great skill and innovation.  Design excellence has been coupled with a visionary brief calling for staff and students to break traditional course divisions and work across disciplines. This is a building where the exploration of design and creativity will flourish.


Big hitters

The shortlist features projects by architecture heavyweights, including previous RIBA Stirling Prize winners Zaha Hadid (MAXXI in Rome, 2010; Evelyn Grace Academy in London, 2011) and Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios (Accordia housing in Cambridge, 2008). Haworth Tompkins has previously been shortlisted (Young Vic Theatre in London, 2007), as have O’Donnell + Tuomey on four occasions (Ranelagh Multi-Denominational School, Dublin, 1999; Lewis Glucksman Gallery, Cork, 2005; An Gaeláras, Derry, Northern Ireland, 2011; The Lyric Theatre in Belfast, 2012).  This is the first year Mecanoo and Renzo Piano Building Workshop have been shortlisted for the prize.

The London School of Economics and Manchester School of Art illustrate the good health of the British higher education building projects. Both buildings serve the students brilliantly. The LSE building has created a pocket of visual drama and eccentricity in contrast to the grey education quarter in which it sits; the Manchester School of Art is a modern student factory – a hot house of creativity with a level of interaction between students of different disciplines never before achieved.

Both the Library of Birmingham and Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre have expertly replaced exisiting buildings, in turn winning over a community (which may or may not be resistant to change) to become a destination that entices that same community in. They are excellent examples of creating spaces worthy of immense civic pride.

The Shard and the London Aquatics Centre are great lessons in how to create a poetic relationship with the landscape - their shared ambition is to enhance the skyline in a picturesque way. The Aquatics Centre delivers the most sensuous architecture experience; with The Shard, the single most significant step forward on the London skyline since St Paul’s, partly so visible because of its beauty.

Speaking about the shortlist Stephen Hodder, RIBA President and the first ever winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize (1996), said: “The RIBA Stirling Prize is awarded to the building that has made the biggest contribution to the evolution of architecture in a given year.

"Every one of the six shortlisted buildings shows what great public architecture can do: it can transcend mere construction to something quite poetic. The shortlist comprises no ordinary new swimming pool, office block, theatre, library or university – they are beautiful, inspiring and transformative new buildings that their communities can relish and be proud of.

"This RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist is sending out the clear message that great buildings don’t only need great architects and clients but they need the patronage of the community they have been designed to serve if they are to be truly successful.

"The shortlisted buildings are all major new additions to an already dense urban fabric in the cities they serve.  However, they are remarkably crafted buildings and the closer you look at their detail, both internally and externally, and their materiality, the more impressive they become. The RIBA Stirling Prize judges have the most unenviable task in having to pick one winner.”



The 2014 RIBA Stirling Prize judges, who visited the six shortlisted buildings and selected the winner on 16 October, were:  Spencer de Grey – Chair (Foster and Partners), MJ Long (Long and Kentish architects),Cindy Walters (Walters and Cohen), Stephen Kieran (Kieran Timberlake) and Sir Timothy Sainsbury.

Article written by Brian Shillibeer | Published 17 October 2014


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