Published  06/11/2006

The UK/RIBA 2006 Stirling Prize

The prize has been award to Richard Rogers' architectural practice, RRP, for the stunning, 1.25 km-long Madrid Barajas Airport. This is a masterly demonstration by Rogers of state-of-the-art airport design, breaking new space barriers in the 21st century. The partnership also submitted for the award their new building for the National Assembly of Wales. This project was particularly sound on 'sustainability' points, including natural ventilation, biomass boilers, ground-sourced heat pumps and a water harvesting system. It looks as if the Rogers partnership was determined to cater for different persuasions on the jury, and so placed their bets 'both ways', so to say, with these two buildings.

There was no entry for the award from the Foster partnership this year, so avoiding whether, by accident or intent, an unseemly contest between the two old sparring partners. Nonetheless, the most likely project deemed to win, by public assent, was the Evelina Children's Hospital, Southwark, London, by Hopkins Architects (Michael Hopkins' partnership). This was briefed from the start to come up with 'a hospital that does not feel like a hospital'. The openness of the building appealed particularly, and the superb internal atrium and clever use of colour energised the building. Also on the shortlist was the 'Idea Store' - a public library next to the Whitechapel Art Gallery, by Adjaye Associates, which made a singular advance on Will Alsop's own earlier Stirling Prize winner, the Peckham Library.

Zaha Hadid's own Phaeno Science Centre in Germany also looked a strong contender, designed in collaboration with German architects Mayer Bahrle Freie Architekten: it caught the fancy of the judges for its affinity with 'paintings, drawings and pavilions'. The last shortlisted building was a domestic-scale Brick House, by well-established London architects Caruso St John, a poem in materiality and space in a long-standing baroque tradition, perhaps to encourage future small schemes to be submitted. This year's judges were landscape designer Martha Schwarz (now working in London), broadcaster Mariella Frostrup (not a mincer of words), architect Stefan Behnisch (son of Guenther Behnisch), and Isabel Allen, editor of The Architects' Journal. This was a very well-balanced jury, with no particular bias other than the quest for excellence. So the Stirling Prize continues to move forward.

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