City theatre wins building prize

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Published: Thursday 16th October 2014 by The News Editor

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Liverpool’s rebuilt Everyman Theatre tonight triumphed in the UK’s leading architecture competition as it landed the Riba Stirling Prize, beating buildings such as the Shard and the Olympic swimming venue.

The new £13.3 million theatre – popularly known as The Ev – replaced the original venue which opened 50 years ago in a disused church, but has retained some features such as its familiar red neon sign and is even built from the original bricks.

Judges praised the “extraordinary contribution to both theatre and the city” provided by the building, the front of which is clad with revolving aluminium panels featuring images of people from the city.

Winning architects Haworth Tompkins had been involved with the project for nine years and had been asked to keep the “soul” of the old theatre – a much-loved community hub, with its popular bistro area.

The firm – previously shortlisted for the Stirling in 2007, which rewards the building of the year, for their revamp of London’s Young Vic – has worked on a number of theatres but this was the first the team had created from scratch.

Also shortlisted for this year’s prize was the London Aquatics Centre, which hosted the Olympic swimming events, Birmingham Library, the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at the London School Of Economics, Manchester School of Art and the Shard.

President of the Royal Institute of British Architects Stephen Hodder said: “The success of this exceptional new building lies in the architect’s close involvement with the local community throughout the project.

“Haworth Tompkins have struck the perfect balance between continuity and change to win the hearts and minds of the people of Liverpool with the vibrant new Everyman.

“Complementing beautifully with the surrounding listed buildings, it is a ground-breaking example of how to build a daring bold and highly sustainable large public building in a historic city centre.

“The building exceeds expectations.”

The old building – a former chapel built in the 19th century – was falling into a state of disrepair with a leaking roof, but its reused brickwork meant it was 90% recycled.

The 440-seat successor has been praised for conjuring up an impression of the vessels which would use the Liverpool docks, with its four ventilation chimneys.

The 105 spinning panels – which act as sun-shades – on the front of the building, emulate the shape of the previous concrete facade.

Thrilled Steve Tompkins, the lead architect on the project, said: “Winning the RIBA Stirling Prize is an enormous honour for our project team and our clients, the reward for an intensive collaboration over almost a decade, during which we have grown to love the Everyman and the great city that it serves.

“It is also an important endorsement of our studio’s ethos and an encouragement to carry on working the way we do, despite the pressures all of us are under to speed up and dumb down.

“We couldn’t be more delighted.”

And the Everyman’s artistic director Gemma Bodinetz said: “Since we reopened, the warmth of feeling from the public to their much-loved Everyman – given a daring and brilliant rebirth from Haworth Tompkins – has been almost overwhelming.

“They have designed a building that supplies joy beyond expectation to every visitor and those of us lucky enough to work there.”

In their citation for the winning building, the judges said: “The new Everyman in Liverpool is truly for every man, woman and child.

“It cleverly resolves so many of the issues architects face every day.

“Its context – the handsome street that links the two cathedrals – is brilliantly complemented by the building’s scale, transparency, materials and quirky sense of humour, notably where the solar shading is transformed into a parade of Liverpudlians.

“As Howarth Tompkins’ first completely new theatre, it is a culmination of their many explorations into the theatre of the 21st century.

“It is ground-breaking as a truly public building, which was at the heart of the client’s philosophy and ethos.

“In summary, an extraordinary contribution to both theatre and the city, achieved through clever team working – client, architect, consultants and contractor – where the new truly celebrates the past.”

The prize was awarded at a ceremony staged in the Riba’s headquarters in London.

A public vote staged by the BBC on its website today named Birmingham Library as the most popular choice.

Published: Thursday 16th October 2014 by The News Editor

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