RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture 2016: Damien Hirst's Newport Street Gallery wins building of the year award

Caruso St John Architects converted a street of listed industrial buildings in south London into a free public gallery to house the Turner Prize winner’s private art collection

Click to follow
The Independent Culture

Damien Hirst’s Newport Street Gallery has won the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture for the UK’s best new building.

Caruso St John Architects converted a street of listed industrial buildings in south London into a free public gallery to house Hirst’s private art collection, which includes works by Tracey Emin and Pablo Picasso. They were honoured at a special ceremony at the Royal Institute of British Architects on Thursday evening.

It is the first time the architects have taken home the prize, despite having been shortlisted twice before for Brick House in west London in 2006 and the New Art Gallery in Walsall in 2000. 

Newport Street Gallery involved the transformation of a street facing a railway line in Vauxhall. Three listed Victorian industrial buildings, formerly carpentry and scenery painting workshops for West End theatres, have been remodelled and flanked at either end by entirely new buildings; one with a striking, spiky saw-tooth roof.

The new spiral staircase in the Newport Street Gallery (Hélène Binet)

The new additions have a specially-created hard pale red brick finish to closely reference the original buildings; while a huge LED panel on the railway façade encourages passing train commuters to visit. The ground and upper floors within the interconnected five buildings are continuous, with new spiral staircases on their side, to create flexible spaces able to accommodate everything from individual works to larger shows.

“This highly accomplished and expertly detailed art gallery is a bold and confident contribution to the best of UK architecture,” said the judges. “Caruso St John’s approach to conservation is irreverent yet sensitive and achieves a clever solution that expresses a poetic juxtaposition of old and new. The collection of buildings is beautifully curated, pulled together by the use of brick yet still expressive of their individuality. The playful use of LED technology gives a contemporary addition to the façade. 

“Internally, the five buildings are connected as a continuous and coherent sequence of light-filledgallery spaces. The simple and logical circulation is enlivened by exquisitely detailed and sensuous staircases. The gallery, which is free of charge, is a generous asset to an evolving community.”

Damien Hirst's private art collection is displayed in the Newport Street Gallery (Prudence Cuming Associates Ltd)

Turner Prize winner Hirst has paid tribute to Caruso St John Architects, thanking them for realising his ambition to “create an unobtrusive and beautiful series of buildings that work perfectly as a space to exhibit great art”.

Peter St John, partner at Caruso St John Architects, sees the building as a “palace for direct, intimate and luxurious encounters with contemporary art”. He said: “It’s rare for architects to be given the opportunity to realise a personal vision of the quality of the Newport Street Gallery, and for that vision to have a generous public dimension. We are very pleased that this award will bring more people to see this extraordinary collection.”

Newport Street Gallery was chosen as the winner from the following shortlisted entries: Blavatnik School of Government, University of Oxford by Herzog & de Meuron; City of Glasgow College, Riverside Campus by Michael Laird Architects & Reiach and Hall Architects; Outhouse, Gloucestershire by Loyn & Co Architects; Trafalgar Place, Elephant and Castle, London by dRMM Architects and Weston Library, University of Oxford by WilkinsonEyre.