The RIBA has been celebrating outstanding architectural work for over 180 years. The awards and prizes are regarded internationally as a mark of excellence, recognising the best architecture, architects, research and students. Here, IGS explore 5 UK projects that have been recognised for their contribution to the architectural landscape. From a multinational office building, an iconic skyscraper to the refurbishment of gas holding building built in 1867, the diversity of work, ideas and innovation is exemplified.
(1) Bloomberg, London | Foster + Partners: RIBA London Award 2018 and RIBA National Award 2018
Occupying a whole block within the city, this project is a large office building to house all of Bloombergs employees under one roof for the first time. Externally the building incorporates a covered walkway all round its perimeter. There is also a new street created, carving the building into two blocks connected by bridges. Commercial units for restaurants etc. are arranged at ground level. There is an external undulation in plan described by the architect as an expression of the movement around the building.
After entering the building one encounters some understandably very tight security, then one moves through an architectural procession to the lifts. This procession includes ‘the vortex’ which is an art piece, one of several throughout the scheme. The lifts – specially designed – take you to a mid-level floor where the main concourse / café space is located. Desks and workspaces are then distributed in clusters accessible from a winding curved ramp, which curls through the building linking the various levels.
The whole building, inside and out, is executed to a very high quality. Externally the building is of an appropriate scale to the surroundings. It seeks to create a dialogue with some very old neighbouring buildings and in that it is quite successful. The covered walkway represents a level of generosity towards the city.
Internally, the process of moving through the architectural procession and up in the lifts creates a completely immersive environment. The concourse level is very vibrant, buzzing with activity and isolated from its surroundings. There’s a sense of Willy Wonka about the space. It is here that the real success of the project starts to emerge. Everywhere you look there is an inventive detail. From the bespoke folded aluminium ceiling ‘roses’ to the magnetic floorboards. The aim of the building was to avoid standard office space and in this it succeeds.
Overall the project is a tour-de-force. This is the opposite of a quiet understated building. In fact the multiplicity of invention at numerous levels is carried through with such conviction that you cannot fail but be impressed by it.
(2) 25 Savile Row | Piercy & Company: RIBA London Award 2018 and RIBA National Award 2018
This refurbishment of an Art Deco office is an exquisitely executed project, from the first conceptual move to the finest point of detail. The outline brief was to create additional space within a constrained site, in a way that was sympathetic to the building’s heritage. For the fit-out, it was to reflect the developer/client’s ethos of quality, while also promoting organisational collaboration. The result is a very beautifully crafted, light and elegant building, in which consistent care and thought have gone into every element throughout the briefing, design and construction processes.
The primary spatial move was to cut a three storey atrium in the middle of the plan, and to suspend within it the lightest of sculptural steel staircases. This has connected volumes of space across floors, with views through and across the whole building, creating a great sense of openness and lightness.
Careful consideration was given to the sustainability strategy for the building. The existing fabric was kept to reduce the overall embodied energy. The building had high levels of thermal mass, and low window to wall ratios. Where new spaces were constructed, such as a winter garden and new office penthouse, new walls and roofs have high levels of insulation and consequently high thermal performance. In addition, glazing was analysed using dynamic thermal models to confirm best g value and thermal performance. The building is generally mechanically ventilated with heat recovery, using a boiler with a 97% efficiency and a high performing VRV system.
Externally the white render and grid of black steel windows were reconditioned. Into this a beautifully detailed bronze framed entrance was set. The careful detailing is consistent throughout the interior, where, as well as bronze, the palette was limited to oak, leather, travertine and steel, with carefully planned juxtapositions between hard edged semi industrial elements and refined warmer materials. The characteristics of each is explored and exploited, such as a delicate scalloped detail to the oak lining A defining innovative feature was the exploration of digital craft and collaboration between client, architect and artisan. Intensive design and fabrication workshops were held with expert makers from the outset. This approach of bringing together cutting edge digital and traditional craftsmanship techniques has created a very beautiful building for the long term, which in an understated way enriches the cityscape in which it sits.
(3) The Leadenhall Building | Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners: RIBA London Award 2018 and RIBA National Award 2018
The project is a new 50-storey skyscraper in the City of London- a neighbour to the iconic Lloyd’s building by the same practice. Designed for client British Land, its already famous slanted ‘cheesegrater’ form responds to their desire to be able to offer their own diverse clients office spaces of different floor areas (diminishing as the building rises) and the demand from planners to preserve key historic views of St Paul’s Cathedral, particularly from Fleet Street.
It is one of the more striking and elegant towers to have been added to the City’s jumbled skyline in recent years. The simplicity of the structural geometry in response to the brief is intriguing, instead of a central core, the building has a full perimeter braced tube, which is visible as a giant bold steel exoskeleton on 3 sides, giving you a visceral sense of the building’s balancing act.
The front façade glazes this over in a huge straight slick shimmering sweep from floor to sky, creating a dramatic contrast.
Its theatrical backside ensure all lifts and toilets are choreographed into a circulation and servicing core at the rear, again glazed. This creates a constant intricate dance of lifts of different colours and sizes and their inhabitants, rising and falling, filling and emptying.
Functional necessity becomes something beautiful to watch – almost like a children’s storybook of How A Building Works – and, again, a contrast with the slick front that is achieved with a seamless conviction.
The public space beneath means the building leaves the lower potential seven storeys of its exoskeleton unbuilt, allowing the giant metal supporting ‘legs’ to create and enclose a canopied void – a public space from which escalators soar up to the offices above, and from where you really appreciate their scale and strength.
This is not just an empty gesture, but accommodates a number of shops and cafes around its edges, within the structure, so adds genuine life and additional pavement to the street as people criss-cross through it. Again, this feels quite theatrical. A new N/S route is also provided.
The response to townscape resulted in the decision to align the canopy over this void with the height of the Lutyens building next door is a simple additional gesture that helps the building have some kind of nodding respectful relationship with the older city streets beneath.
(4) New Tate St Ives | Jamie Fobert Architects with Evans & Shalev: RIBA South West Award 2018 and RIBA National Award 2018
The extended gestation of the reconfiguration and extension of the Tate St Ives has resulted in a building with more than twice as much gallery space which resolves the functional challenges of the original building, increases the car parking provision at the top of the site and creates an enhanced public route from top to bottom of the site. The visible manifestation of the new building is minimal and modest, underplaying its impact on the interior experience for visitors and staff.
Externally the most prominent feature is the faience clad loading bay – visible from Porthmeor Beach, the subtle greenish-grey ceramic turret sits quietly between Evans and Shalev’s original building and the housing adjacent. The gallery extension has been carved out of the hillside, connecting seamlessly to the existing galleries; the top lit space is capped by deep, in situ beams which create a rhythm and character very different in character to the 1990s spaces.
From the loading bay, soaring etched-glass doors give access to a huge goods lift which connects all floors (also providing enhanced disabled access to the gallery) – provision of a new picture store and workshop also enhances functionality. A winding in-situ staff stair with lacquered steel handrail celebrates simplicity whist also connecting a new, upper level staff entrance to offices, meeting room and staff amenity which enjoy stunning seaward views. The granite and glass gallery roof lights emerge into a public landscape of granite paving and planting which echoes the nearby cliff tops.
The evolution of this iconic south west attraction has overcome huge challenges, navigating vociferous local stakeholders and significant site constraints. By architectural ingenuity, a building has been delivered where there appeared to be no site available, with minimal intrusion on an already crowded horizon. It has created an intriguing new public landscape and pedestrian connection from hilltop to beach and, with subtle reordering of the original gallery, it achieves a seamless environment to in which to enjoy art.
(5) Gasholders London | WilkinsonEyre with Jonathan Tuckey Design: RIBA London Award 2018 and RIBA National Award 2018
The industrial heritage of Kings Cross is integral to its regeneration and the triplet of Grade II listed cast-iron gasholders is the most distinct centrepiece. Constructed in 1867, the heavy industrial structures in their full restoration remain as a dominant feature on the new skyline of Kings Cross. Sitting comfortably within these structures are the three residential drums, clad in a delicate and intricate aesthetic of steel and glass panels with a veil of external shutters pierced in a pattern of circles to allow dappled light into the rooms.
These create a homogenous yet dynamic skin, paying homage to the original drums that once sat in these gasholder guide frames. However, they also fulfil a functional and environmental requirement for modern living. The judges were impressed by the facade design addressing the challenges of privacy, solar shading and window dressing while celebrating the industrial character of the gasholders.
The architect approached the configuration of the three interlocking drums to create a 4 fourth central drum-shaped courtyard, which is open and theatrical with the conglomeration of the gasholder structures coming tougher.
As a counterpoint to the external structure, the interior is based on the intrinsic aesthetic and working of a watch. The brass linings in the polished floor, balustrade design and custom-designed door handles reinforces this crafted approach to the details and is reminiscent of Scarpa’s instinctive designs, combining base materials with precious ones. A brass lining to the vertical edge of the external shutters continues this language onto the facade.
The residential drums are set at differing heights to suggest the historic movement of the gasholders and each one with its own central atrium floods light down into the heart of the structure and into the apartments through diffused glass screens. The circular walkways and light reflective surfaces create a ‘Guggenheim’ feel to encourage interaction with neighbours and other residents.
The integral design of the wayfinding throughout the development with signage embossed into the textured concrete panels is done with great intelligence. This considered approach to the design is also evident within the apartments with a take on boutique hotels where the detailing to the fixtures and fittings is meticulous and custom-made. The layouts of the pie-shaped apartments are well planned, embracing the concept of a radial arrangement to benefit from expansive views and daylight.
The provision of a spa, gym, roof garden, cinema and business lounge all add to a modern lifestyle offer. The client is finding that the demographic of residents is proving to be older than expected with an appreciation for the quality of detail and ease of use of the apartments with innovative technologies.
Gasholders London is a successful marrying of old with new where it sensitively handles the needs of modern 21st century living with celebrating the most beautiful industrial structures in the renaissance of King’s Cross.