12 Jun, 2009

Public buildings compete for prize

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Twenty-four works in contention for ninth Prime Minister’s award for Better Public Building, a competition designed to improve standards in the public sector

An environmentally friendly ringroad and a school sports hall made from recycled freight containers are among the 24 finalists competing for Britain’s top public architecture prize.

One of the projects, picked from 125 submissions of new work from the public sector, will be chosen to win the ninth Prime Minister’s award for Better Public Building in October. The competition was set up to try to improve standards not only in public sector architecture but throughout the building process, from procurement to interior decoration.

In Ashford town centre in Kent, the old one-way three-lane ringroad has been transformed into a series of interconnected streets that promote walking and cycling over car use, with features including wider footpaths, secure cycle parking and curved lighting columns.

A sports hall at Dunraven school in south London made from recycled sea containers is one of seven educational buildings to make the shortlist, announced today. Other finalists include the new tube station at Wood Lane in west London, and the Cathedral Green Footbridge over the River Derwent in Derby which was inspired by the movement of the hinged blades of a tailor’s shears.

Sir John Sorrell, chairman of the Commission for Architecture and the Built Environment (Cabe), said: “I think we are reaching a tipping point where a desire for good design is evident in most public building.

“I think most clients will no longer accept badly conceived, lowest cost solutions, even in a recession. The result is a myriad examples of well-designed buildings and spaces: an architecture of the everyday that helps people live more convenient lives in more beautiful places.”

Last year the Royal Alexandra children’s hospital on Brighton’s seafront won the award, in recognition of its calming and colourful environment and the nautical design that resembles Noah’s ark. Previous winners have included the Dalby Forest visitors centre in North Yorkshire, which is clad in larch grown and milled in the forest and designed to be entirely recycled at the end of its life to minimise the building’s carbon footprint.

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