Following the news that the 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize was been won by Witherford Watson Mann for Astley Castle at a ceremony in London last week, the critical response to the project has been extremely positive. Joseph Rykwert (who recently won the RIBA Gold Medal) said that "Witherford Watson Mann have been gentle surgeons, saving the essential, eliminating the incidental". Check out the critical responses from The Financial Times' Edwin Heathcote, The Guardian's Oliver Wainwright, Building Design's Ellis Woodman, and the Architects' Journal's Rory Olcayto after the break...
Edwin Heathcote, Financial Times
There is an extraordinary sophistication in the interventions at Astley Castle, with every junction and surface tailored into its precise location and crafted into its uniquely, eccentrically decayed and irregular place.
For Heathcote, the building stands as "an exquisitely crafted and beautifully wrought intervention". Describing the outside dining hall as "the most extraordinary space", "open to the elements yet intensely architectural", it is "an immersion into a world that is decaying and degrading and a poignant acknowledgment that no building, no matter how solid or stately, lasts forever". Astley Castle is "a welcome winner and perhaps the most architecturally rewarding and finely designed victor of the past two decades".
Oliver Wainwright, The Guardian
Architecture awards are not often given to structures where the roof has caved in and walls have crumbled, but nor are many ruins treated with the care and attention lavished by Witherford Watson Mann.
Noting that "eyebrows may be raised that the award has gone to a luxurious holiday home, which costs up to £2,500 a week for eight people", Wainwright appreciates that "the architects' approach to Astley Castle points an intelligent way forward for breathing new life into redundant structures of all kinds in a way that is neither overly cautious, nor that shouts too loud".
Ellis Woodman, Building Design
Every bit as substantial as the original fabric while conveying a delicacy and precision that distinguishes all aspects of the new work.
For Woodman, the "design is conceived as the product of a series of precisely defined building procedures" and "stood out for the attentiveness of its response to the found condition". Suggesting that "most other entrants saw the brief as an invitation to make an intervention that stood in dramatic contrast to the encompassing ruin, WWM recognised that the more exciting - not to say affordable - task was to develop a strategy of repair that would allow a part of the existing fabric to be returned to use".
Rory Olcayto, Architects' Journal
Witherford Watson Mann’s design is a stylish new template.
Describing the project as a "stylish retrofit" with "a subtle blend of contemporary modernism and picturesque ruin", Olcayto feels the building is "a very welcome winner". Although he acknowledges that this type of project is not new in Europe, citing Chipperfield's Neues Museum as an example, the fact that Astley Castle has won the UK's most prestigious architecture prize "signals a change in how we treat and make use of historic buildings".