Leicester Scores an Architecture Hat Trick
David Wilson Library, John Lewis Store and Curve Win RIBA Awards
The East Midlands region has won an unrivalled eight prizes in the prestigious 2009 RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Awards, with three ‘Oscar’ winners in the city of Leicester.
The buildings now go through to the next stage of this national competition to find the RIBA Stirling Prize Building of the Year.
They are the new John Lewis department store and Cineplex linked to Leicester’s refurbished Highcross Shopping Centre; the vibrant new Curve theatre on Rutland Street; and the newly extended and refurbished David Wilson Library at the University of Leicester.
The RIBA Awards are presented annually to the best new buildings across the UK, recognising excellence in architectural design.
Praising the three Leicester winners, Tony Parr, Chairman of RIBA East Midlands, said: “This is an absolutely fantastic result for the region and the scope of the winning buildings, from an iconic new department store, to an inspirational university library and an exciting contemporary 'factory for theatre', demonstrates the high quality architecture which is being created in Leicester.
"It is tremendous that these outstanding local projects have won top architectural awards. It highlights the good design and creativity that architects can bring to exciting new projects.”
The David Wilson Library, University of Leicester
Described as having the ‘wow’ factor, the newly extended and refurbished David Wilson Library at the University of Leicester, was designed by Associated Architects.
Say the judges: “The new building gives the whole library complex a strong sense of being the centre of the campus. The design is exemplary in that it achieves an adaptation rather than conservation, or indeed demolition, of an existing modern structure.
“The architecture is now legible, enjoyable, has a real buzz and a real sense of student study community, a library where students are at the heart of the facility rather than books.”
The architects, clients and teams which created the winning projects in Leicester will receive their awards at a ceremony in the autumn.
Pro-Vice-Chancellor Christine Fyfe said: “'We're thrilled that Associated Architects' stunning design for the David Wilson Library has received this accolade. The David Wilson Library has been a huge success, receiving no less than 1.5 million visits in its first year. This RIBA award is a testament to the quality of the design, creating a vibrant and accessible space in which to learn and reflect at the heart of the University.”
John Lewis Department Store and Cineplex
Designed by Foreign Office Architects, the new John Lewis store and cinema complex was commissioned within a larger city centre regeneration scheme at Highcross.
Described by the judges as a ‘very fresh and witty piece of architecture’, the innovative design turns the department store ‘inside out’, letting in unrivalled amounts of daylight. “It is a clever and interesting manipulation of surface, pattern and route around the building.”
The judges say the design adds a ‘refreshing dimension to a world where there is tension between signature design and commercial requirement’.
The department store’s exterior has been designed as a ‘net curtain’ inspired by Leicester’s historical textile and weaving industry, ethnic clothing and John Lewis fabrics. “It was researched and selected from archived local John Lewis pattern books and in so doing celebrates regional identity.”
Attached to the side of the store, the Cineplex, clad in stainless steel shingle-like scales, has a shimmering, attractive skin. “This design has many extraordinary features and presents a unique exploration of the notion of the architectural skin,” add the judges.
Curve, Rutland Street, Leicester
Designed by Rafael Vinoly Architects, Curve, Leicester’s new state-of-the-art ‘factory for theatre’, is described by the judges as ‘genuinely iconic’.
Its ‘inside out’ design with a four-storey glazed curtain wall, seeks to integrate performances into the life of the city itself. Say the judges: “It has achieved a new level of ambition in theatre design. This venue is attracting world class theatre productions due to its ground breaking idea of turning the typical theatre configuration inside out.”
Curve is helping to kick start regeneration in the Rutland Street area, which is already showing signs of an upturn. The theatre’s design enables a wide variety of performance configurations to meet the community’s diverse cultural needs.