2021 RIBA Stirling Prize Shortlist

John Hill
16. September 2021
15 Clerkenwell Close by Groupwork (Photo: Screenshot from short film by RIBA)

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has revealed the six buildings in the running for the 2021 RIBA Stirling Prize, which annually awards the "UK's best new building."

Coming one year after the Stirling Prize was "paused" due to the coronavirus pandemic (determined by the need for the jury to visit shortlisted projects), the six shortlisted projects culled from the various RIBA National Awards range from a slender footbridge in remote North Cornwall to an apartment building in Central London. The latter, 15 Clerkenwell Close, is perhaps the most curious building of the six shortlisted projects, not so much for its striking megalithic facade (above), but for the controversy around its planning approval. The Islington Council ordered the demolition of the building, which was completed in 2017, because the rough facade was not indicated in the approved planning documents submitted by the architects, Groupwork. The building won a RIBA National Award in 2018 but then was pulled from Stirling Prize consideration due to the then ongoing planning dispute. In 2019, Groupwork won an appeal over the demolition and the building the firm both designed and developed was saved, eventually making its way into this year's Stirling Prize shortlist.

It is up to the still-to-be-determined jury if 15 Clerkenwell Close will garner the 2021 RIBA Stirling Prize winner, though the previous winners might give some clues as to the eventual winner. The last five Stirling Prize winners have been have been a social housing project in Norwich, an office headquarters in London, a recreational pier in East Sussex, an art gallery in London, and a girls' school in London. Actually, the typological and geographical diversity of these previous winners, as well as of the six shortlisted projects this year (listed below and in the short film from RIBA), make it hard to track any trends in the prestigious award. Which project is deemed the UK's best new building will have to wait until October 14, 2021, when RIBA reveals the Stirling Prize winner.

The six shortlisted buildings (with quote commendations from RIBA):

  • 15 Clerkenwell Close by Groupwork for 15CC: "15 Clerkenwell Close is brave, ambitious, highly innovative and bespoke, where risks have been taken and have paid off, resulting in a truly imaginative, intriguing and astonishing work of architecture."
  • Cambridge Central Mosque by Marks Barfield Architects for Cambridge Mosque Trust: "Central Cambridge Mosque is a demonstration of how architecture can embody religious and cultural philosophy and traditions while utilizing sustainable and contemporary materials."
  • Key Worker Housing, Eddington, Cambridge by Stanton Williams for the University of Cambridge and North West Cambridge Development: "Eddington is emerging as a fascinating example of place creation and urban planning and this Key Worker Housing scheme has helped to establish a high benchmark for forthcoming phases."
  • Kingston University London - Town House by Grafton Architects for Kingston University, winning RIBA London Award 2021 and RIBA National Award 2021: "This building is about high quality at every scale, from the choice of materials to the more abstract characteristics of warmth and flow."
  • Tintagel Castle Footbridge by Ney & Partners and William Matthews Associates for English Heritage: "This new bridge is beautifully executed at all scales, from the way it respects the silhouette of the landforms it abuts, down to the tactile detail of its path, made from slate on edge."
  • Windermere Jetty by Carmody Groarke for Lakeland Arts: "Nestling into the eastern shore of Lake Windermere, the Jetty Museum creates a compelling composition of vernacular forms which achieves an unusual reconciliation of the reassuringly familiar with the strikingly contemporary."

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