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Stirling Prize: The Latest Architecture and News

The Gherkin: How London's Famous Tower Leveraged Risk and Became an Icon

How does design change the nature and distribution of risk? In this, the first of four installments examining the Gherkin, the London office tower and urban icon designed by Foster + Partners, author Jonathan Massey introduces the concept of “risk design.” The series, originally published on Aggregate's website, explains how the Gherkin leveraged perceptions of risk to generate profits, promote economic growth, and raise the currency of design expertise.

Designing Risk

Back the Bid. Leap for London. Make Britain Proud. Emblazoned across photomontages of oversized athletes jumping over, diving off, and shooting for architectural landmarks old and new, these slogans appeared in 2004 on posters encouraging Londoners to support the city’s bid to host the 2012 Olympic Games. Featured twice in the series of six posters—along with Buckingham Palace, Nelson’s Column, the Tower Bridge, the London Eye, and the Thames Barrier—was 30 St Mary Axe, the office tower known colloquially as the Gherkin for its resemblance to a pickle, or as the Swiss Re building, after the Zurich-based reinsurance company that commissioned the building and remains its major tenant.

London Calling: The Man Behind the Stirling Prize

A few weeks ago the RIBA doled out the 18th Stirling Prize to London-based architects Witherford Watson Mann. The decision was a good one. It was good for WWM and good for the profession – a youngish practice being recognized for a small but beautiful piece of work.

The scheme’s application of brickwork and joinery removes the work from the expediencies of modern construction technology and building products, which almost exclusively characterize the contemporary built environment. It genuinely feels like a project made at a different point in history, the result of the quite particular interests of three minds, Stephen Witherford, Chris Watson and William Mann. It is direct and personal. It reminds me of Stirling’s work.. 

And not just for its powerful draftsmanship, plan and restricted palette of materials, but for its intimacy. An intimacy that is apparent in much of Stirling’s oeuvre. I do not refer to the production of intimate spaces per se but the formulation of an architecture that is authored not by a factory but a few minds. 

The latest Stirling prompted me to look back, and reconsider the work of Stirling himself.

Critical Round-Up: Stirling Prize 2013

Astley Castle / Witherford Watson Mann. Image © Helene Binet, courtesy RIBA
Astley Castle / Witherford Watson Mann. Image © Helene Binet, courtesy RIBA

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...

RIBA Stirling Prize Winners: How Prize-Worthy Are They?

With Astley Castle winning this year's Stirling Prize last week, Olly Wainwright investigates the fortunes of other Stirling Prize winners - finding that in many cases critical acclaim and awards do not necessarily translate to long term success. His study brings into question what qualities should be awarded, and seems to imply that there should be a greater focus on post-occupancy awards, such as the 10-year award started by the Council on Tall Buildings and Urban Habitat’s (CTBUH) this year, and another being considered by the RIBA. You can read Wainwright's full investigation here.

Astley Castle Wins the 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize

The 2013 RIBA Stirling Prize has been won by Witherford Watson Mann for Astley Castle (Nuneaton, Warwickshire). The winner was just announced at a ceremony at London's Central Saint Martins, a building designed by last year's winner Stanton Williams. Astley Castle was also voted as BBC readers' favourite earlier this week. Jury-member Stephen Hodder stated that "engaging with the building was such a surprise for [the jury]," and described it as an "unassuming" building with great "rigour."

Stephen Hodder Inaugurated as 75th President of the RIBA

Following Angela Brady’s two year tenure as head of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Stephen Hodder MBE was officially inaugurated as the 75th President of the UK’s largest architectural body yesterday. Hodder, perhaps best known as the recipient of the first RIBA Stirling Prize in 1996 for the Centenary Building (University of Salford, UK), is chairman of the award-winning practice Hodder + Partners in Manchester (UK).

RIBA Shortlist for Stirling Prize Announced

UPDATED: Out of 52 exemplars of UK architecture, RIBA has chosen the six buildings that will compete for the prestigious RIBA Stirling prize (awarded to the building that makes the greatest contribution to British architecture that year). See the six contenders, including a video of each, after the break...

Critical Round-Up: Reactions to the Stirling Prize Shortlist

Most critics agree that this year's shortlist for the Stirling Prize is more "modest" than in past years - which is not to say that they didn't have plenty to say on RIBA's selection. Check out the critical responses from The Financial Times' Edwin Heathcoate, The Guardian's Oliver Wainwright and The Independent’s Jay Merrick, after the break...

RIBA takes the Stirling Prize to the BBC

The RIBA has announced that this year’s Stirling Prize will be shown on BBC Two’s The Culture Show, after viewing figures dipped to an all time low on Channel 4 last year.