Building Beauty Awards has unveiled its 2023 finalists of Britain’s most beautiful new buildings, engineering structures and urban landscaping schemes.
The finalists have been selected by a prestigious judging panel chaired by “design guru” Stephen Bayley Hon FRIBA, who is joined by an esteemed panel comprised of architectural commentator Paul Finch OBE, founding Principal of Lifschutz Davidson Sandilands Architects Alex Lifschutz, BAFTA award-winning artist, photographer and filmmaker Alison Jackson, co-founder of the interdisciplinary engineering practice AKT II Professor Hanif Kara OBE, and acclaimed postmodern architect Piers Gough CBE RA.
The awards are sponsored by luxury property developer Ballymore and were founded in 2022 by the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust in a bid to celebrate beauty in our built environment.
This year’s awards will be held in the Sea Containers House amphitheatre on Friday 10 November, and presented by Sir Ben Okri, the Booker Prize-winning magic realist author who has written and spoken so eloquently about the importance of beauty in the everyday.
There will be a winner for each of the four categories, in addition to an overarching winner who will receive a £12,000 prize – the richest prize in British architecture. The overall winner of this year’s Building Beauty Awards will also become the UK entry for our International Building Beauty Prize at the World Architecture Festival in Singapore at the end of November.
The finalists are:
One Silk Street, Manchester (Mecanoo Architects for Northern Group)
A mixed-use development in the Ancoats area of Manchester, encompassing a variety of housing and commercial facilities and breathing new life into an historic quarter of the city.
A rigorous and robust building that draws on the warehouse aesthetic common to Victorian Ancoats and adapts it intelligently. This is not a pale imitation but a confident, well-realised update. To some extent One Silk Street is a pioneer building, in the vanguard of neighbourhood regeneration, and it sets an impressive tone for adjacent development sites: there’s a reasonable chance it will encourage others to raise their game and in doing so will help create a genuinely vibrant quarter.
Barking Riverside Station, London Borough of Barking & Dagenham (WW+P for TFL/Barking Roverside Ltd)
A railway station that serves variously as gateway, anchor and beacon, setting the tone for a huge development site on the Thames that will eventually contain 11,000 homes but which at the moment sits almost empty apart from this building. It’s a coolly elegant, disciplined piece of work, light and airy at platform level with a distinctive band of perforated Corten steel, running the length of the building, that gives the building visual coherence and personality.
Bayside, Worthing, Sussex (Allies & Morrison for Roffey Homes)
A brave and breathtaking building, sitting literally beachside at the eastern end of Regency Worthing and forming an exclamation mark that harmonises well with the white stucco of the seafront terraces and the horizontal mass of the historic pier. An impressive exercise in using local references to create an original and powerful landmark – a worthy replacement for the depressing 1960s swimming pool that previously occupied the site and which, ironically, turned its back on the sea.
Cody Dock Rolling Bridge, London E16 (Price & Myers Structural Engineers with Thomas Randall-Page for Gasworks Dock Partnership)
This pedestrian bridge, made from weathering steel and oak, is manually rolled to allow boats to pass. It is as much a piece of sculpture and a diverting spectacle as a functional bridge. The beauty is in the details: in the slow rolling of the bridge as it opens and closes and in the elegantly serpentine caterpillar track cut into the dock walls. A joyous way of helping to revivify a contaminated and derelict stretch of post-industrial riverside.
Woolbeding Glasshouse, Midhurst, Sussex (Heatherwick Studio for the Woolbeding Charity – 2022)
The Woolbeding Glasshouse is a unique kinetic glasshouse set on the edge of the National Trust’s Woolbeding Gardens. It is both an eyecatcher in a Georgian landscape and a muscular and delicate piece of machinery. The movement of the sepals, opening slowly as the petals of a plant might in response to light, makes it an object of delight.
Public Space Award
Battersea Power Station Public Realm, London SW11 (LDA Design for Battersea Power Station Development Company)
The long-awaited renewal of Battersea Power Station has been a triumph, propelling Giles Gilbert Scott’s leviathan from the throes of dereliction to a new life as a leisure and retail destination. Part of the success comes from the generosity and quality of the surrounding public realm, a beautifully judged mix of intimate spaces and grand vistas that includes, uniquely in west London, a piazza running down to the river: a place from which to contemplate the brick cliff of Scott’s north front in all its cathedral-like magnificence, almost as you might the Torre del Mangia from the Campo in Siena.
Elephant Park, Elephant & Castle, London SE17 (Gillespies for Lendlease)
A project that brings genuine, lasting improvements to the public realm in a neighbourhood that has come close in the recent past to being an urban dystopia, blighted by gargantuan, oppressive post-war developments. This subtle network of green spaces has a redemptive, softening quality that knits together a renewed townscape and operates across an impressive range: the repertoire spans not just set-piece parks but transformed pavements, notably along the New Kent Road where a scrappy, flyblown streetscape is fashioned into an elegant, urbane stretch.
Little Gem Award
Angel Yard, Edmonton, London N18 (Jan Kattein Architects for Enfield Council)
This temporary ensemble, creating small affordable workspaces on a microscopic budget, might easily have been banal. But instead, it manages to create beauty in a deprived locality on the cusp of redevelopment. Amid the decay, this stands as an exemplar of what can be achieved through attention to detail, evident in the miniature but uplifting two-storey work units with their barrel-vaulted ceilings. The architects have replaced derelict garages with a low-key but surprisingly delicate piece of work that acts as a statement of faith in a place where hopelessness could all too easily take root.
Pavilion, Oriel Plas Arts Centre, Llanbedrog, North Wales (Sanderson Sculpture / Mark Wray Architects / Fold for Plas Glyn-y-Weddw)
A creative addition to a small country house that now serves an arts centre, this petite café is more likely to raise a smile than the pedestrian conservatory it replaced. Inspired by playful references to sea urchins and covered in welded encrustations, it has enough chutzpah to become a destination in its own right.
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