Riba award for bridge with no wobble

Today, the Riba adds four new stars - in Berlin, The Hague and Dublin - to its constellation of award-winning buildings
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The Independent Online

Four buildings in Europe were today awarded Royal Institute of British Architects Awards for Architecture. They join the list of 50 award-winning buildings already announced by the Riba as part of the Stirling Award round-up and, like them, the new posse shows a considerable diversity of design approaches. Richard Rogers Partnership, with the Daimler Chrysler building in Berlin, is the best-known practice, along with a fifth award candidate, Ahrends Burton and Koralek, whose British Embassy in Moscow has yet to be judged.

Four buildings in Europe were today awarded Royal Institute of British Architects Awards for Architecture. They join the list of 50 award-winning buildings already announced by the Riba as part of the Stirling Award round-up and, like them, the new posse shows a considerable diversity of design approaches. Richard Rogers Partnership, with the Daimler Chrysler building in Berlin, is the best-known practice, along with a fifth award candidate, Ahrends Burton and Koralek, whose British Embassy in Moscow has yet to be judged.

The buildings and structures range from complex to plain-Jane, and show that postmodern design is incorporating fresh innovations, and that increasing attention is being paid to reducing the impact on the environment.

Rogers' three-building scheme, in Berlin's Potsdamer Platz, looks like a machine for a task yet to be invented. In fact, its third-millennium sophistication - which delivers spectacular spaces and façades - belies one or two simple solutions that have grounded other innovations in basic realities.

For example, the buildings were designed to allow light to penetrate into the courtyard, atrium and internal spaces. The offices and atrium space are naturally ventilated and this was partly the result of careful analysis of the performance criteria of all façades and of air-flows and thermal effects.

The Riba judging panel - Stephen Hodder, David Levitt, Joanna van Heyningen and Tony Chapman - said that Rogers' solution to a key regeneration site in Berlin had shown "a familiar rigour, from urban strategy to environmental design and architectural detail, whether from the sophisticated modular envelope to the stair tread".

In Dublin, Howley Harrington Architects' Millennium Bridge at Wellington Quay, is the flip side: a simple, understated span which artfully conceals complex engineering. But the 51m bridge offers a gentle brand of sensuality: the asymmetrical parabolic arch has booms which curve gently and satisfyingly inwards. Other creative solutions allowed the architects to use unusually slender structural members. The engineers, Price and Myers, are no doubt relieved that this blade over the Liffey doesn't wobble.

Berlin featured twice in the judges final deliberations. They plumped for the GSW housing association's headquarters in Kochstrasse by Sauerbruch Hutton Architects. And if Rogers' delivered techno-chutzpah, SHA seems to have decided that the site - not far from the course of the old Berlin Wall - needed to be redeemed by a coat of many colours. The most striking part of the scheme is its brightly coloured 22-storey element, which is less than 35ft wide and capped by a yellow, blue and green aluminium drum.

The slimness of the tower means that it can rely on natural ventilation and controlled thermal-gain, which is said to have cut power bills by around 40 per cent. Thermal flues, double façades and sun-shades have all contributed to relatively low-tech environmental solutions.

The fourth award-winner is Martin Richardson/HTV Architects' residential square in The Hague's Troostplein and, like the other three schemes, regeneration is at the root of things. The development might seem unremarkable: a mixture of houses, flats and maisonettes based on a restricted range of narrow frontages.

But the judges were highly impressed with the generously proportioned accommodation, the safe central public space and "the courteous transition from red to yellow brick, and back again, the elegant glazed canopies, the slate details, the low-maintenance galvanised down-pipes". Richardson's design, they added, "contains valuable lessons for the way we rebuild inner cities in the UK".

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