The Evelyn Grace Academy, a cutting-edge new secondary school in Brixton, south London by Zaha Hadid Architects has won the prestigious £20,000 RIBA Stirling Prize 2011 for the best new European building built or designed in the United Kingdom.
This is the second year running that Zaha Hadid Architects have won the RIBA Stirling Prize; last year they won the award for their MAXXI Museum of 21st Century Art in Rome; this year they have put the practice’s formidable reputation to great use by breaking new ground in school design. Now in its 16th year, the RIBA Stirling Prize is presented in association with The Architects Journal and Kingspan Benchmark.
The presentation of the UK’s premier architectural award took place at a special ceremony this evening (Saturday 1 October 2011) at the RIBA Stirling Prize-winning (2001) Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham, and will be televised tomorrow (Sunday 2 October 2011) on BBC Two’s The Culture Show at 5pm.
A highly stylized zig-zag of steel and glass, the Evelyn Grace Academy is squeezed onto the tightest of urban sites (1.4 hectares – the average secondary school is 8/9 hectares). The architects received a complex brief: four schools under a single academy umbrella with the need to express both independence and unity. The architects were strongly encouraged by the client to ‘think outside the box’. With such a small space and with sport being one of the Academy’s ‘special subjects’ (each Academy school has one), the architects needed to be highly inventive.
They succeeded, for instance by cleverly inserting a 100m running track into the heart of the site taking pupils right up to the front door. By dramatically celebrating the school’s specialism, the RIBA Stirling Prize judges noted ‘this is a design that literally makes kids run to get into school in the morning’.
The Evelyn Grace Academy is the first school to win the RIBA Stirling Prize, with seven schools shortlisted in previous years. It is the first time that Zaha Hadid Architects have designed a school and their first large-scale project in the UK. Previously they designed a Maggie’s Centre in Scotland and more recently they have completed the Riverside Museum in Glasgow and the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympics.