Curating is one of those terms that you can easily take an instant dislike to. One of those contemporary terms used to describe the “bleedin’ obvious”.
But in this case someone has done a good job for this year’s crop of RIBA best buildings. The 2018 shortlist includes a fascinating collection of architecture. They range from the what seems environmentally-friendly restoration with the likes of Walthamstow Wetlands, a sympathetic restoration and revitalisation of a run-down area, with an emphasis of the inclusiveness of nature and buildings. The Albert Works restored a derelict area of Sheffield with a clean new building in homage to what was there before.
While Albert Works tends to the hipster-style, albeit in that hard-as-nails Sheffield way, the Department Store is all-out Seattle lifestyle, wake up and smell the coffee place. Contrast that with the clean simplicity and clarity of line of St Augustines Church.
Then there’s the challenges of building a building within a building, the intrepid and fascinating Gasholders London. While I like to see re-purposing, is this great architecture or just plain crazy?
From all of those on the shortlist, my preference is the brilliant Tate St Ives. An engineering riddle as much as brilliant design it has transformed the Tate experience. And besides it wins hands-down as it has stunning sea views from the public roof top terrace.
So once you get over the shock that the prestigious Stirling Prize for architecture was awarded to a Pier rather than a more conventional building (sic) it’s refreshing that something so English, so old-fashioned with its seaside connotations, should be rewarded for re-invigorating and modernising the concept.
So what can a modern re-working of a pier do? There seems to be limitations to the actual potential of such a building. Really what can you do with a long line of wooden planks facing over the roiling sea?
Well they seemed to have created a rather large space, that is multi-functional. So they can hold various events and activities there. And there is the deck building which provides the ocean vista. Another plus factor for awarding this building is that we like the idea of restoring something. Hastings pier had been destroyed by fire in 2010 and the resulting re-build process, including lottery funding and a crowd-sourced campaign ensured the modern pier re-opened in April 2016.
Mind you the other 5 buildings seemed to offer little in the way of competition. Monolithic concrete blocks, with Glasgow’s audition for a Russian Kremlin building, and a photographic studio you would want to shoot yourself to get out off, and buildings that seemed to just shuffle into designated spaces but not really occupy their own space. So a pier it is.
Don’t drop your ice-cream on it, it’s an award winner!
Murphy House, named after Richard Murphy, the architect and home-creater and owner, won the RIBA house of the year award this year.
Love it or loathe it, a least it’s a fascinating design, and looks like some sort of house. Other shortlisted ones included the ubiquitous endless glass panels of the Outhouse. Oh come on, give in with the sliding glass doors; and for goodness sake at least try and make it resemble a private dwelling rather than a trendy office block with lifestyle fixtures!
Meanwhile the CIOB are showcasing some fabulous photographs in their “Art of Building” competition. I know with Instagram and endless image banks there are already plenty of striking images, but trust me, these are striking images worth looking at. Plus unlike RIBA it’s a public vote so you can have an input into this year’s winner. But only if you’re quick, before 23rd January 2017. And if you’re not quick, you can look at next years!
My favourite? The art deco of “Control”, by Roman Robroek, from Hungary.
The competition attracts fabulous talent, so is a great opportunity for any budding photographers out there.