The main institution that gathers architects throughout the United Kingdom, Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), organizes each year a series of awards that celebrate the best architectures in the country, divided by region – the RIBA Regional Awards – but also nation-wide, like the RIBA National Awards, the RIBA Stirling Prize and the RIBA Client of the Year.
The prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize is dedicated to the “best building in the UK”, as the organizers put it, and this year it was awarded to a project by Níall McLaughlin Architects in Cambridge, the new Magdalene College Library. The award is named after James Stirling, who in 1980 won the Royal Gold Metal and who has since been linked to architectural excellence. The prize is judged against a range of criteria including design vision, innovation and originality, capacity to stimulate, engage and delight occupants and visitors, accessibility and sustainability, how fit the building is for its purpose and the level of client satisfaction.
The jury – this year chaired by Simon Allford (RIBA President) and composed by Glenn Howells (Founder Glenn Howells Architects), Kirsten Lees (Managing Partner Grimshaw), Chris Ofili (internationally acclaimed artist) and Smith Mordak (Director of Sustainability and Physics Buro Happold) – reports that:
“A unique setting with a clear purpose, the new Library at Magdalene College is sophisticated, generous, architecture that has been built to last. Creating a new building that will last at least 400 years is a significant challenge, but one that Níall McLaughlin Architects has risen to with the utmost skill, care and responsibility”.
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The brickwork façade and load-bearing walls combined with wooden interiors (structural elements, furnishing and finishings) add to the welcoming atmosphere the visitor encounters upon entering the building. These materials were also chosen to improve the environmental sustainability of the building that now hosts light-filled study spaces, an archive and an art gallery. This year, the project also received the RIBA Regional Award – East and the RIBA National Award.
Location: Cambridge, UK
Client: Magdalene College
Architect: Níall McLaughlin Architects
Main Contractor: Cocksedge
Structures: Smith & Wallwork
Acoustics, Environment and M&E: Max Fordham
Costs and Quantity Surveyor: Gleeds
Building Control: MLM
Project Management: Savills
Photography by Nick Cane, courtesy of Royal Institute of British Architects