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Last November, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) announced the launch of the Reinvention Award, a new award program joining an already-robust array of annual accolades recognizing built projects in the United Kingdom and beyond including the affordable housing–focused Neave Brown Award, the RIBA International Award, House of the Year, and the coveted Stirling Prize.

True to its name, the Reinvention Award is squarely focused on adaptive reuse and recognizes the crème de la crème of U.K.-based projects that breathe new life into existing buildings. Somewhat of a pet project of RIBA president Simon Allford, the prize is described as celebrating “achievements in the creative reuse of existing buildings through transformative projects that improve environmental, social, or economic sustainability.”

Now, ahead of the naming of the inaugural Reinvention Award winner, which will coincide with the 2023 RIBA Stirling Prize ceremony on October 23 at Victoria Warehouse in Manchester, four buildings in the running have been announced. The shortlisted projects, selected from 2023 RIBA Regional Award winners, are:

Houlton School | van Heyningen and Haward Architects

Houlton School.

Houlton School. Photo © James Brittain

In Warwickshire, the Grade II-listed site of Rugby Radio Station, a 1920s-era government-operated radio transmission facility famous for its towering (now-felled) masts, was transformed into a modern high school campus that melds new structures with repurposed historic ones.

Great Things Lie Ahead | 6a Architects and Caragh Thuring

Great Things Lie Ahead.

Great Things Lie Ahead at Holborn House. Photo © James Dehlin

This aptly named project involved the refurbishment and extension of an existing public gym into a larger neighborhood hub that facilitates “a wider range of cultural, social, and sporting activities” offered by the Holburn Community Association in central London. 

The University of Wolverhampton School of Architecture and the Built Environment | Associated Architects with Rodney Melville and Partners

University of Wolverhampton School of Architecture and the Built Environment.

University of Wolverhampton School of Architecture and the Built Environment. Photo © Ben McPhee

A decrepit 19th-century brewery building operated by Mitchells & Butlers closed since the early 1990s (and ravaged by fire in 2004) was revived as a “dynamic education facility” for the University of Wolverhampton that nods to the site’s rich industrial heritage while maintaining some of its key architectural features including a grand entrance arch.

Museum of the Home | Wright & Wright Architects

Museum of the Home.

Museum of the Home. Photo © Hufton + Crow

In Hackney, East London, a long-running free museum formerly known as the Geffrye Museum housed within a series of 18th-century Grade I-listed almshouses was closed for more than two years while it underwent a careful refurbishment and expansion project in order to “increase the museum’s public reach and creative one of the largest green spaces in the area.” The museum reopened with its new moniker in the summer of 2021.

Said Allford of the four projects comprising the inaugural Reinvention Award shortlist: “These remarkable projects all demonstrate that the architecture of reinvention, requires immense talent, vision, and creativity.”

“This award demonstrates that breathing new life into beloved old buildings, can reap huge rewards — for their users and our planet,” he added. “I hope that this inaugural award will act as a catalyst, inspiring others to take up the retrofit challenge and that we will see many more exciting and ambitious examples in the future.”