Riba awards: London trio up for top architecture award

The Shard, Aquatics Centre and London School of Economics' student centre The Shard, Aquatics Centre and London School of Economics' student centre are three of six buildings nominated

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London's The Shard, Aquatics Centre and the London School of Economics' student centre have all been shortlisted for a prestigious architecture design award.

The Royal Institute of British Architects' (Riba) Stirling Prize recognises excellence in buildings.

Six buildings have been recognised. The winner will be announced on 16 October.

Judges said the Aquatics Centre was a fitting backdrop for the Olympics; the Shard was a "great beauty" and the student centre was "startling".

Of London's architecture, Riba's president, Stephen Hodder, said: "Almost every year there is a building from or around London that is shortlisted.

"There are two reasons for this; the quality of architects working in London and the amount of building activity in London. Also, behind a very good building there is a good client."

Philip Gumuchdjian, chair of the Riba awards group which selected the shortlist, said London had been revitalised in the last 30 years.

"In 1980 there was a resistance to any foreign architect working in London or Britain, it was quite controlled.

"Now it's more common and it's added a great richness. It's very cosmopolitan, just as London is."

The Shard
The Shard The Shard is the tallest building in western Europe

Mr Hodder said: "The Shard is a very significant and elegant addition to the London skyline but the tower also has to work well in terms of how it engages with the street.

"The skyline of any city is always changing. I recognise that we have to respect the historic view and at the moment there's a debate about tall buildings. But the Shard does not impact on the historic views but adds to it."

"Whatever position you take, as you look across the London skyline your eye immediately goes to it; you almost don't see the other buildings," said Mr Gumuchdjian.

"The building is literally five shards of glass resting on each other, it's pure sculpture."

The building was designed by Renzo Piano Building Workshop.

Rory Olcayto, the editor of the Architects' Journal, said the Shard marked the point of London's origin; "like a giant flagpole it pinpoints the location of where Romans first crossed the Thames and then founded ancient Londinium".

"It means so many other things too: it is a symbol of London's reliance on overseas wealth, in that it was funded in the main by Qatari money.

"But it is also a symbol of how lofty London's success has been in recent years compared with the rest of Britain."

Viewing platform on the Shard People can see for miles from the viewing platform near the top of the building
Aquatics Centre

Although it was built for London 2012, this is the first time the centre has been submitted for this award as the plan was for it to be judged after the legacy changes had been completed.

Designed by Zaha Hadid Architects, the building saw its wings, which were used to seat spectators during the Games, removed so that it could be turned into a swimming facility used by everyone.

"There's serenity about the building which captures the spirit of water and the activity that goes on within," said Mr Hodder.

Aquatics Centre in the Olympic Park The Aquatics Centre was used in the Olympics for the swimming and diving competitions

"If sport - and keeping fit - is Britain's new religion then Zaha Hadid's Aquatics Centre is the cathedral we want to worship within," said Mr Olcayto.

"It's cavernous interior is among the greatest of public spaces anywhere in Britain."

Inside the Aquatics Centre British diver Tom Daley now trains at the centre
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More on the Stirling Prize
  • Awarded by Royal Institute of British Architects
  • Architects must be Riba members to be in the running, and the building anywhere in the EU
  • Working in partnership with Riba, BBC News will run a series of features on the shortlisted buildings later this year
  • Find out more about the BBC's coverage of the 2013 Stirling Prize
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London School of Economics

Mr Olcayto said the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, designed by O'Donnell and Tuomey Architects, "transformed how we perceive this world famous institution".

London School of Economics - Saw Swee Hock Student Centre The judges said every angle responded to the rights of its neighbours to light

"Everyone has heard of the LSE but few would be able to tell you what it actually looked like.

"No longer: now it has a striking landmark - and unlike other more recent icons, it fashioned from London's traditional building blocks - bricks - rather than steel and glass."

The building is made up of 46 standard shape bricks, 127 special bricks out of a total of 175,000, and not a single cut brick.

Mr Hodder saw the LSE building for the first time on Tuesday.

"I find very rarely do you come across a building which is truly original.

"When you delve beneath it all it is a very pragmatic solution to building in a very dense urban area."

London School of Economics - Saw Swee Hock Student Centre The Saw Swee centre was described as having a high degree of craftsmanship

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