With six building being shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling prize including the Olympic stadium it was a bit of a surprise that the £82m plant research centre at the University of Cambridge won the UK’s most prestigious architecture award. Recently the Sainsbury Laboratory was named best new building by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The two-storey building, set in the University of Cambridge’s botanic gardens, includes high security laboratories, growing areas and the university’s seed store. Images of the building make it resemble some sort of eastern bloc monolith, albeit trendy and modern. Their website has all the appeal of a council-operated site.
Also short-listed was the Hepworth Wakefield art gallery. According to the BBC their director says the winner “isn’t a building that excites me”. Writing on his blog, he continues “I want to be a gracious loser with regard to the Stirling Prize, but it was especially hard to lose to a building with an enormous budget (dwarfing ours) in an extremely privileged city, and a project to which the public barely have access”. It would be nice to think that access and interesting social use of a building may have an impact on award decision making. Maybe the public test will be this – they both have café’s. Which one will we end up in?