We are all well aware these days of the key rôle that historic buildings play in urban regeneration, and part of the purpose of this award is to acknowledge the contribution made by restored Georgian buildings to the quality and vitality of our towns and cities. The three shortlisted schemes, listed alphabetically below, are:
12 Lincoln's Inn Fields, one of the trio of buildings occupied by the Soane Museum. This, Soane’s first family house in Lincoln’s Inn Fields, has been meticulously restored using Soane’s 1793 plans and decorative specification, evident in the striking Pompeian Red walls, Harewood grained joinery and sky-effect ceiling in the Withdrawing Room. The full-height cantilvered stair has been returned to its original form, with unsightly propping removed. The attention to detail, quality of the work and authenticity of the restoration are immediately evident, but it is also a practical project, finding room for a conservation studio and a shop, and an inventive one, with imaginative flourishes such as the lift behind a trompe l’oeil bookcase and an unobtrusive disabled lift in the front lightwell that is a model of its kind.
16 Queen Anne’s Gate is one of several large London townhouses recently converted back from office to single residential use, but few have been carried off with such subtlety and sensitivity as this one, exquisitely restored, redecorated and refurnished by the present owner. Of course the office paraphernalia of suspended ceilings, stud partitions and ubiquitous lino have been swept away, but instead of the plutocratic brashness, even kitschiness, that we sometimes see in their place we have here the antithesis: a deeply considered approach exhibiting faultless taste. A sober sculpture gallery is about to be reborn, so fitting for a house next door to Charles Townley’s, whose collection of marbles was bought by the British Museum in 1805; and in the back garden the owner plans an aviary on Birdcage Walk.
Also shortlisted is 210-212 Sharrow Vale Road in Sheffield, a run of three 1810 snuff workers’ cottages, two of them built as back-to-backs, that adjoin the oldest snuff mill in the world, dating from 1740. Snuff is still made locally. This decrepit trio, unlisted, was on the market as a development opportunity but was saved from demolition by Andrew Whitham and, as part of the process, was spotlisted Grade II. Now, conservatively restored, it serves as single dwelling that retains its original plan form and hierarchical joinery. The gardens too have been restored to their nineteenth century layout. A building at risk, redolent of local industrial history, has thus been rescued from the brink of ruin.
The winner will be announced on the evening of 31 October 2012.