Architecture in the North West was once dominated by satanic mills and industrial chimneys. These were remnants of a bygone age when the region was regarded as the industrial powerhouse of the world. But nothing lasts forever; during the 20th century the mills fell silent and the chimneys took their last breath.
But now, after decades of neglect, there is a sense of optimism in the air. The region is on the up again as new investment creates new jobs and improved infrastructure. The chimneys have been replaced by soaring skyscrapers and the mills are now home to some of the North West’s most exciting startups.
This economic revival has brought a new breed of architectural optimism with it. Buildings which are not only beautiful to look at, but also stimulating spaces to live and work. To highlight how this new breed of architecture is helping to transform the region, what better place to look than this year’s RIBA North West Award Winners for 2019.
Now in their 50th year, the RIBA awards are internationally renowned as a mark of architectural excellence. Buildings are judged by a team of 75 leading architects and assessed not only for their innovation and originality, but also for their accessibility, their capacity to stimulate occupants and how well they serve the building’s purpose.
This year’s winners were announced at the Manchester School of Art on May 8th and include an eclectic mix of projects, including private homes, a research facility and even a community centre.
The six award-winning buildings are:
Alder Hey Children’s Hospital, Institute in the Park – Hopkins Architects
The new collegiate building on the Alder Hey Hospital campus was designed to provide accommodation for staff from four universities and NHS Trust members. Despite its size, the building sits perfectly in its location thanks to an eco-friendly textured timber facade.
Judges praised the building for its open-plan workspaces, exceptional use of natural light and passive sustainability measures which provide an inspiring, uplifting and comfortable environment in which to work.
Mustard Tree – OMI Architects
The Mustard Tree represents what can be achieved with a constrained site and a limited budget. The building is a conversion of two rather unappealing 1950s factory buildings, which have been transformed thanks to the skill and ingenuity of the architect.
The centre is designed to support people facing poverty and homelessness across Greater Manchester. Judges praised the centre for its ingenious use of space, which provides a flexible environment for the ever-changing activities of the centre.
Restorative Rural retreat for Sartfell – Foster Lomas
Located on the Isle of Man, this idyllic rural retreat is the perfect example of how a building can be designed to complement its environment. The building is set into the hillside and constructed using organic construction methods which ensure the building is not only beautiful, but environmentally friendly too.
This beautiful unique building was praised for its “fabric first” approach which minimises energy demand. Heat recovery and solar control systems are used to reduce energy consumption, providing a highly sustainable building within which to live and work.
Ordsall Chord – BDP Architects
Ordsall Chord demonstrates the benefit of working with local communities to create a cohesive and accessible environment for everyone to enjoy. The plan was to clear space for a new railway intersection.
The architects worked with local stakeholders to turn previously run down and disused spaces into a series of open public areas which celebrate the character and achievements of the region. Judges praised the attention to detail, thoughtful design strategy and community spirit of the project.
Preston Bus Station Refurbishment – Jason Puttick Associates with Cassidy + Ashton
The refurbishment of Preston Bus Station posed a number of challenges. Firstly, as a listed building, the outward appearance couldn’t be changed. Secondly, the skills required for restoring mid-20th-century buildings are relatively new, forcing the architect to work out solutions for problems along the way.
Despite these challenges, the result has been an astounding success. The flow of buses has been improved, a large public area has been created and new shopping outlets have reinforced the purpose of the building. Judges praised the reuse of materials throughout the site and recognised the building as an exemplary example of mid-20th-century building restoration.
Farnworth House – Smith Young Architects
Located in a traditional village, opposite a church, Farnworth House could easily have been a traditional building, complete with mullioned windows and a pitched roof. But the client had other ideas. A contemporary home was desired which complemented both the village and surrounding buildings.
The architect chose to create a steel framed building clad with locally sourced timber and stone. The result is an elegant contemporary building which does not look out of place in its traditional setting. Judges praised the use of local materials and the interior layout which promotes a feeling of continuity and rhythm.
These winning projects show how with a little ingenuity and hard work, exceptional results can be achieved for a diverse range of projects. Good architecture has the power to stimulate minds and enrich people’s lives. It should also be sustainable and have a minimal environmental impact. These buildings represent all that and more.