How can buildings make London a better city? A school, a stadium and a street have all just won an award for exactly that as part of the annual RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Awards. This year's 14 London winners are an interesting mixed bag.
From these, plus those beyond the capital, all by British architects, the winner of the prestigious Stirling Prize will be chosen this autumn. Last year the Stirling was won by the Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton, designed by Zaha Hadid, but this year it's a wide field.
An obvious runner in the London set is the Olympic stadium in E20 designed by Populous, but also tipped is New Court, Rothschild Bank's new HQ in EC4, and a new White Cube gallery in Bermondsey.
There isn't much housing, which reflects nationwide belt-tightening. The only single house among the London winners, Kings Grove in SE15, is designed by an architect couple, Duggan Morris. It's a no-frills exposed brick house with large, plain, recessed picture windows.
The couple, whose careers have earned them the right to design precisely the home they want, have combined a simple, rather sweet boxy exterior in sparrow-like London stock with perfect interior details adding high-class character, such as brass window trims and taps.
The other winning domestic entry is a low-budget extension (46sq m) in west London that replaces a rotting lean-to on a Victorian family house. Called Hairy House because of its wild-meadow roof, the new extension, with a big window to the garden, is clad in lapped slate and holds a new kitchen, dining and play space.
Nice touches include beautiful timber lining, plus a wide wooden window seat that doubles as a play-bench and seating for dining. The architects (Hayhurst and Co) did this for £168,000 and it will easily make more at sale.
Social housing gets a brilliant look-in with Haworth Tompkins's Peabody Avenue in Pimlico. Designing modern social housing as good as a Victorian Peabody development isn't easy. The five-storey London-brick building echoes the neighbouring buildings at the front, while flats have balconies at the back. The flats are handsome and continue the quality for which Peabody housing is renowned.
But low-cost is hurled out of the gothic window at St Pancras Chambers, for Manhattan Loft Corporation. The overwhelming glamour of this magnificent Grade I Gilbert Scott building, fully refurbished, takes your breath away. English Heritage put its foot down over alterations, insisting en suite bathrooms were tucked inside existing bedroom walls.
That careful touch, combined with the endless carving, high vaulted spaces, specially woven carpets and restored painting and gilding, makes this hotel with its glamorous bars and restaurant a sensuous oasis in a time of adversity.
Exhibition Road SW7, pedestrianised by Dixon Jones, is another winning space for public enjoyment. With its dramatic walkway — criss-cross patterned like Malvolio's stockings in Twelfth Night — leading up from the museums towards the Serpentine, the now-beautiful, wide boulevard is a plus for strolling Londoners and tourists alike, enhanced by bars and cafés at the South Kensington Tube end.