It is only the second year of category awards in houses and housing, conservation, commercial, health, education and leisure buildings, and civic and community centres. The winners of each category will be shortlisted for the Stirling Prize to be announced at the end of November, and on 3 November all 52 projects will be exhibited at Riba. They make up an instant photo-fit of what's happening in building around the country and in Europe.
Urban regeneration is a constant theme, with a Victorian stone water tank in Huddersfield skilfully converted by Mark Lee into a roundhouse. The old Luma lighting factory in Glasgow turned into 43 apartments by Cornelie McClyumont Architects meant changing the windows to put two extra floors into the high-ceilinged plant. Built in 1938 to coincide with the Empire Exhibition, the factory was derelict. Now its white rationalist facade is a handsome addition to Glasgow. The sympathetic restoration by Lifschutz Davidson of London's landmark Oxo building on the Thames repackages a redundant warehouse as community housing with designer studios and the Harvey Nichols restaurant on top. An advertising coup when built in the 1930s, with the windows spelling out the name of the beef extract warehoused there, the Oxo building today signals changing demographics: fewer beef eaters, more community housing.
There are some firsts. The first lottery-funded project to be awarded architecturally is the King's Lynn Corn Exchange. Levitt Bernstein Associates turned the Grade II listed building dating from 1854 into an adaptable arts centre with two riverfront theatres fitted with hydraulic platforms and retractable seats. A bit of lottery money was used to rig out the interiors of Belfast Waterfront Hall by Robinson & McIlwaine - and to light it - but none went into the building.
Also for the first time Riba included across all the categories buildings by British architects in Europe. A chic Parisian flat by Mark Guard, a young architect adept at turning tiny spaces into penthouses on low budgets, proves that it is possible to make an eight-metre by four-metre apartment in a Thirties block look spacious. His glass, steel and wooden interiors have a cool contemporary metropolitan feel.
Small houses in the private sector prove that people are more positively disposed towards architects. Some patrons use architects on tiny projects almost as high art. Original sash windows used as a niche for sculpture in the light-filled conversion by Stickland Coome of a gloomy basement dining room in London have "the quality of a Ben Nicholson," Riba judges said.
There are monuments, too, like the handsome pale green steel and glass train depot by Chris Wilkinson at Stratford on the extended Jubilee line in London. This is the first celebration of the Jubilee jamboree and there is so much happening that by the end of the century Jubilee buildings could well be in their own category.Reuse content