Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) has won the 2015 RIBA Stirling Prize – having been shortlisted on three previous occasions they may have felt that their time would never come. The bookies had billed it as one of the closest contests in recent years with little to choose between all six finalists with Reiach and Hall’s Maggie’s Centre in Lanarkshire, MUMA’s The Whitworth Gallery in Manchester and Niall McLaughlin Architects’ Darbishire Placein London the perceived favourites.
The judges unanimously chose the £40.9million “accomplished” concrete clad Burntwood School in Wandsworth as its winner. The 19,800 sqm project features six new facility buildings and the refurbishment of two original buildings. The judges’ citation states the school “is the clear winner … it is the most accomplished of the six shortlisted buildings because it demonstrates the full range of the skills that architects can offer to society”.
AHMM has developed a reputation for delivering exceptional school design having designed eight in the last ten years – the award is the culmination of a decade of work invested in delivering excellence in school design. The school was among the last to be funded through the Building Schools for the Future (BSF) programme.
It is especially encouraging that the jury has recognised the value of excellent design in buildings for education and the impact that this can have on the lives of students, and teachers. It is hopes that this will send a strong message to policy makers, illustrating the noticeable benefits of a high level of design quality.
Burntwood School is what school design should be – it is aspirational, it enhances a love of learning and it encourages children to appreciate the built environment.
The RIBA Stirling Prize was born in 1996 – following on from its predecessor, the Building of the Year award which had been running since 1988. The prize is named after James Stirling, arguably the greatest British architect who died in 1992. The prize has been instrumental in turning the tide of negative public opinion against modern architecture that has existed in the 1980’s and 1990’s. Every year the prize is presented to the architects of the building that has “made the greatest contribution to the evolution of architecture of the past year”. Recent winners include the Everyman Theatre by Haworth Tompkins and 30 St Mary Axe (The ‘Gherkin’) by Foster + Partners.
Contribution by Angus Eitel of FiftyPointEight Architecture & Interior Design