Wednesday, 3 November 2010

2010 Architectural Awards: the Winners

Baroness Andrews OBE, Chairman of English Heritage, presented our eighth annual Architectural Awards at Christie's tonight.

The winners are:

RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN COUNTRY HOUSE

Buckland House in Oxfordshire
, 1757 by Wood the Younger, has been comprehensively restored for Patrick McNally; when he bought the house it had lain empty for years and was on the English Heritage Buildings at Risk register. Taking on a house of these palatial dimensions, and in that condition, is a daunting challenge, not for the fainthearted, but the scale and consistent quality of the work and the unflashy attention to detail inspire awe: twenty-two student flats removed, twenty-six tons of lead recast and the stonework, ornamental plasterwork and joinery painstakingly conserved by skilled craftsmen, in an unstinting team effort that has reinvigorated a major Georgian country house that had lost its way.

RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN BUILDING IN AN URBAN SETTING

Buckingham Palace and Lancaster House, stonework repairs. At Buckingham Palace an entire elevation, facing the inner courtyard immediately behind the public front, has been cleaned and restored, with layers of deadening paint stripped off to reveal the bright Caen stone of the Blore fa├žade and the Bath stone of Nash’s pedimented centrepiece, which originally faced the Mall when the palace courtyard was open to the east. The 1820s tympanum sculpture by Baily has been miraculously enlivened by the same treatment. Impressive ambition has also been shown at Lancaster House, where the Bath stone sings again after years of gentle dirt-encrusted decay. The results are a revelation and the projects themselves are a powerful statement of unabashed Government commitment to the care and preservation of public buildings.

REUSE OF A GEORGIAN BUILDING

Dandridge’s Mill in Oxfordshire, an 1820s silk mill. The building was disused and derelict by 2007 and its new owners have sensitively converted the mill to apartments, carefully maintaining the internal volumes, which so often are carelessly and crudely subdivided. What impressed us as much as anything here, though, was the literal re-energising of the building, the old mill pond being reused to generate hydro-electricity for the development by means of an ingenious Archimedes Screw. This is imaginative, inventive and commendably self-sufficient, but it also powerfully evokes the original purpose of the mill, a place of machinery, industry and creation. A millpond put to work in what is now a domestic context is hugely more satisfying than a tame water feature.

RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN CHURCH

St Alkmund’s in Shrewsbury is mediaeval in origin but the nave and chancel were designed in the 1790s by John Carline in a Gothic idiom. The Reverend Richard Hayes has been superbly solicitous of the church in his care, walking the breadth of Scotland among other penances to raise funds for its repair. His labours have borne splendid fruit. The remarkable iron traceried windows and boundary railings, all cast at Coalbrookdale, have been superbly restored, as has the 1790s east window by Francis Eginton and fixtures such as Carline’s altar table, all below a new slate roof. In all this there is a recognition, too rarely seen, that glorious architecture, carefully conserved, is not a hindrance but a help in spreading the message of the Church.

RESTORATION OF A GEORGIAN GARDEN OR LANDSCAPE

Valentines Park in Ilford, on the London/Essex border, is a far-sighted restoration of a jewel of a Rococo garden built by Robert Surman, deputy cashier to the South Sea Company. The house and garden miraculously survive in amongst dense urban development. But decay and neglect had attracted vandals and other reprobates, as decay and neglect always do. Now, beautifully restored with the Long Water dredged and the shell grottoes, dovecote and flint alcove seat pieced back together, there is a palpable sense of uplift that radiates far beyond the garden walls. It has, according to one resident, raised the tone of the whole borough.

NEW BUILDING IN THE CLASSICAL TRADITION

The Pipe Partridge Building at Lady Margaret Hall, Oxford, encloses a quad with an arcaded elevation that acts as a curtain-raiser to a lecture theatre, beautifully detailed with signature flourishes, from ceiling pendentives to acanthus finials. This may be undergraduate accommodation, but there is no sign of the cut corners, cheap fittings and value engineering that mar similar buildings elsewhere. The architects have picked up Raymond Erith’s cue and used fully-loadbearing brick, warmly pointed with lime mortar, and the buildings fits comfortably within the LMH tradition of enlightened architectural patronage.

THE GILES WORSLEY AWARD FOR A NEW BUILDING IN A GEORGIAN CONTEXT

The Southgate Centre in Bath, by Chapman Taylor, is a 13 acre retail/residential development, within a World Heritage Site, that replaces a 1971 shopping centre. Both that and its new successor were clad in Bath stone and of comparable height, but the new scheme is divided by open streets, broken down into digestible portions, set around a square and inspired by traditional Bath architecture. The materials, detailing, morphology and urban design combine to form a highly satisfying composition. This is no longer a grim area dominated by a monolithic shopping centre, to be hurried through en route from the railway station to Bath proper. Instead it offers pleasing prospects and tantalising glimpses, drawing you in rather than repelling: a place to linger and a fine introduction to the city for those arriving by train. Yes, it is a product of artifice, what the confused illiterati might call pastiche. But artifice was not always a term of abuse: to the Elizabethans, on the contrary, it was a compliment. This is street theatre at a heightened and refined level, and we should welcome it warmly.

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