A London school, a striking steel and glass Academy with a 100-metre running track through its centre, has won the £20,000 RIBA Stirling prize, the UK’s top award for architecture.
The Evelyn Grace Academy, a Brixton secondary school, beat off the bookies’ favourite, Michael Hopkins’s Olympic Velodrome (nicknamed the Pringle), to win. It is the first time the award has been won by a school.
Designed by Zaha Hadid architects, Evelyn Grace is Hadid’s second Stirling win in a row, but her first major UK building. The Academy is laid out in a cross and brings together four schools under its interlocking Z-shaped roof.
It is built on a very tight 1.4 hectare site, yet has a 100m running track going straight through the middle, an Astro-turf sports pitch, and gathering spaces up on the roof.
In this densely built-up area the design, showing off crisp sharp angles and lines, is so striking that you would expect there to have been reams of local objections to the planning application, but in fact there wasn’t even one.
The now-open school is widely liked. Even the students love it, and say they find it exciting, while RIBA president Angela Brady says, ‘it is what every school could and should be.’
Iraqi-born Hadid had not built anything in the UK until a dramatic reversal of fortune, begun in 2006 with a Maggie’s Centre in Scotland, followed by the Riverside Museum in Glasgow.
Now, with the Evelyn Grace open and the Olympic London Aquatics Centre due next year, she is firmly on the UK map.
Another scholarly project won the £5K Stephen Lawrence Prize for small projects. St Patrick’s School Library and Music Room in North London was designed by Coffey Architects.