On October 6, the Royal Institute of British Architects bestowed its highly coveted award—the RIBA Stirling Prize for best building of the year—to the Newport Street Gallery, designed by Caruso St John Architects. The building is located in London’s Vauxhall neighborhood and houses a free public gallery for English artist Damien Hirst’s private art collection.
The gallery, completed last year, takes on the entire length of a formerly industrial street, situated across from a railway. The design involved the conversion of three neighboring Victorian buildings—which originally housed carpentry and scenery-painting workshops—and the addition of new structures on either end, making for a total of five interconnected buildings. The ground and upper floors each feature three large exhibition spaces and are connected with a dramatic spiral staircase.
The new additions nod to the original buildings with their use of red brick. An LED panel on its facade is visible to train passengers across the street, encouraging them to visit.
“We see the building as a palace for direct, intimate, and luxurious encounters with contemporary art,” said partner Peter St John in a statement.
RIBA president Jane Duncan noted, “Caruso St John has created a stunningly versatile space from a number of linked buildings, with beautifully crafted staircases and superb details including tactile brick facades. The result is a succession of wonderful gallery spaces.”
The multidisciplinary group of judges, which included Patrik Schumacher of Zaha Hadid Architects, 2015 Stirling Prize–winner Paul Monaghan, architect Roisin Heneghan, developer Mike Hussey, and artist Rachel Whiteread, called the gallery “a bold and confident contribution to the best of UK architecture.”
Caruso St John, founded in 1990, is a first-time winner of the RIBA Stirling Prize; the firm was short-listed for a residential project called Brick House in 2006 and for another gallery, the New Art Gallery Walsall, in 2000.
The other five short-listed entries for the prize were: Herzog & de Meuron’s Blavatnik School of Government; the City of Glasgow College’s Riverside Campus, designed by Michael Laird Architects; the Weston Library, by WilkinsonEyre; Loyn & Co Architects’ Outhouse; and Trafalgar Place, by dRMM.