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The Stirling Prize shortlist reflects our climate emergency

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Matthew Barnett Howland with Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton: Cork House. Photo: Ricky Jones

A far cry from the gleaming glass landmarks of architecture awards past, this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize nominees could be summarised as humble, with the environment at their heart. The annual award goes to the year’s best new building, as selected by the Royal Institute of British Architects, and is generally the industry’s most coveted prize.

This year’s shortlist includes Cork House, an entirely cork construction including structural cork walls and roof. Designed by Matthew Barnett Howland with Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton, the building emits almost zero carbon and all its components can be reused or recycled. It’s also designed for disassembly and can be constructed by hand. RIBA commented on its nomination: “Form, function and footprint are all equally considered and respected.”

Also nominated is Goldsmith Street, a scheme of 100 houses for Norwich City Council that conform to Passivhaus standards, resulting in ultra-low energy buildings – a rarity in mass housing projects. This project was designed by Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley.

The Macallan Distillery by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners has a rolling grass rooftop, camouflaging into the scenery; while The Weston at Yorkshire Sculpture Park by Feilden Fowles is also embedded within the existing landscape – additionally boasting eco features such as a green roof.

Furthermore, there is the Nevill Holt Opera house that features on the shortlist. A beautifully warm and modest, timber-clad theatre designed by Witherford Watson Mann architects, and lastly, a similarly wood-adorned but much grander London Bridge Station by Grimshaw is also on the eco-friendly roster.

This year marks an increase in the prize’s growing tendency towards sustainable architecture – last year the award went to Foster + Partners’ Bloomberg London headquarters – Britain’s most sustainable office building – and the previous year to dRMM’s regenerated Hastings Pier. Look at for this year’s winner, to be announced on 8 October 2019.

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Grimshaw: London Bridge Station. Photo: Paul Raftery

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Witherford Watson Mann: Nevill Holt Opera. Photo: Hélène Binet

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Mikhail Riches with Cathy Hawley: Goldsmith Street. Photo: Matthew Pattenden

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Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners: Macallan Distillery. Photo: Mark Power

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Feilden Fowles Architects: The Weston. Photo: Peter Cook