Architects on a roll at the coast

Architectural awards are normally given to dignified, workable, elegant and even beautiful buildings.

No one would expect a roller-coaster on a north England pleasure beach to merit equal status with handsome churches and smart university extensions, but this year's Riba Awards for Architecture are a little different.

Among the 51 award-winners chosen by judges up and down the country on behalf of the Royal Institute of British Architects is a "station for the Pepsi-Max Big One, Blackpool Pleasure Beach" designed by Philip England: "This building, said the jury, is seriously fun, a contrast with most of its frothy polystyrene neighbours. It makes a fine contribution to Blackpool as it arrives at the centenary of its Pleasure Beach."

England's station is somewhat different from its Inter-City counterparts. Its function is to "handle the vertical transfer and storage of three trains, provide maintenance workshops, and to load and unload passengers safely. It is designed for a maximum flow of 1,700 passengers per hour, and the loading section can hold 150 passengers at a time". Passengers at this award-winning station are taken for a vertiginous, scream-a-second ride on the world's tallest, fastest roller coaster (235 ft high and 85 mph). England's design, said the judges, was thoughtful because it offered "a surprisingly calm space to contain the snaking queue of aspirants and quaking bodies of descendants".

Given Britain's ascent or descent, depending upon your point of view, over the past 15 years into a burger-chomping, Coke and Pepsi-swilling, baseball-cap-wearing, gum- chewing shopping-mall society in which leisure has become the prime social goal, it seems only appropriate that a roller-coaster station on Blackpool Pleasure Beach should win an award that 20 years ago would have gone to a school or hospital.

Announcing the awards today, Owen Luder, the Riba president, said: "There are more Riba awards than ever before, which suggests that we are currently witnessing the rise of an exceptional generation of architects." Among the most talented of the younger generation of architects are Troughton McAslan and Allies and Morrison, both of whom won awards yesterday. The list suggests that a healthy number of civic buildings have been designed to high enough standards to win recognition from the Riba, yet Mr Luder said he was disappointed so few came from that sector. "I hope this is something that the National Lottery can rectify."

The National Lottery is itself something of a roller-coaster and, to date, there is hardly one major all new building of any architectural merit being funded by Millennium sources.

This may well be because the new-style British Leisure plc (formerly Great Britain) is much more interested in providing fun (for which read bread and circuses) for its customers (citizens was the boring old word) than creating architecture and civic spaces of lasting value.

Nevertheless, among the other 50 award-winners are a number of fine buildings that bear out Mr Luder's belief that British architecture is enjoying something of a renaissance.

Among these is one mainline railway station, Ashford International, which was designed by Nick Derbyshire Design Associates, a civic design that represents the cultural link between Britain and Europe as opposed to the transatlantic leisure line between Britain and the United States so neatly laid by Philip England's Pepsi Max Big One station Blackpool.

Start your day with The Independent, sign up for daily news emails
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
ebooks
ebooksAn introduction to the ground rules of British democracy
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
Independent Dating
and  

By clicking 'Search' you
are agreeing to our
Terms of Use.

iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Property Negotiator - OTE £20,000+

£16000 - £25000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This family owned, independent ...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Spanish Speaking

£17000 - £21000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - German Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is a fantastic opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Administrator - Japanese Speaking

£17000 - £23000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: If you are fluent in Japanese a...

Day In a Page

The Greek referendum exposes a gaping hole at the heart of the European Union – its distinct lack of any genuine popular legitimacy

Gaping hole at the heart of the European Union

Treatment of Greece has shown up a lack of genuine legitimacy
Number of young homeless in Britain 'more than three times the official figures'

'Everything changed when I went to the hostel'

Number of young homeless people in Britain is 'more than three times the official figures'
Compton Cricket Club

Compton Cricket Club

Portraits of LA cricketers from notorious suburb to be displayed in London
London now the global money-laundering centre for the drug trade, says crime expert

Wlecome to London, drug money-laundering centre for the world

'Mexico is its heart and London is its head'
The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court that helps a winner keep on winning

The Buddhist temple minutes from Centre Court

It helps a winner keep on winning
Is this the future of flying: battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks?

Is this the future of flying?

Battery-powered planes made of plastic, and without flight decks
Isis are barbarians – but the Caliphate is a dream at the heart of all Muslim traditions

Isis are barbarians

but the Caliphate is an ancient Muslim ideal
The Brink's-Mat curse strikes again: three tons of stolen gold that brought only grief

Curse of Brink's Mat strikes again

Death of John 'Goldfinger' Palmer the latest killing related to 1983 heist
Greece debt crisis: 'The ministers talk to us about miracles' – why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum

'The ministers talk to us about miracles'

Why Greeks are cynical ahead of the bailout referendum
Call of the wild: How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate

Call of the wild

How science is learning to decode the way animals communicate
Greece debt crisis: What happened to democracy when it’s a case of 'Vote Yes or else'?

'The economic collapse has happened. What is at risk now is democracy...'

If it doesn’t work in Europe, how is it supposed to work in India or the Middle East, asks Robert Fisk
The science of swearing: What lies behind the use of four-letter words?

The science of swearing

What lies behind the use of four-letter words?
The Real Stories of Migrant Britain: Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won't have him back

The Real Stories of Migrant Britain

Clive fled from Zimbabwe - now it won’t have him back
Africa on the menu: Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the continent

Africa on the menu

Three foodie friends want to popularise dishes from the hot new continent
Donna Karan is stepping down after 30 years - so who will fill the DKNY creator's boots?

Who will fill Donna Karan's boots?

The designer is stepping down as Chief Designer of DKNY after 30 years. Alexander Fury looks back at the career of 'America's Chanel'