Stirling Prize 2013: Astley Castle in Warwickshire wins architecture award

Royal Institute of British Architects commends 'exceptional' redesign of ancient monument, which is now a holiday home

Nick Clark
Friday 27 September 2013 10:19

A "ground breaking" modern holiday home in the burnt-out shell of a 12th century manor has landed the most prestigious award in British architecture.

Astley Castle in Warwickshire was this evening named the recipient of this year's Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) Stirling Prize and dubbed a "stylish new template" for future restoration projects of ancient buildings.

Stephen Hodder, president of Riba, said it was "an exceptional example of how modern architecture can revive an ancient monument".

He said it was significant because it was not a conventional restoration project and the architects "have designed an incredibly powerful contemporary house, which is expertly and intricately intertwined with 800 years of history".

Astley Castle had been lying in ruins since it was gutted by fire in 1978, and was on the Heritage 'At Risk' Register.

Rory Olcayto, deputy editor of The Architects’ Journal, said it was a "very surprising winner"but added it was "one that will appeal to both the public and the profession alike. It changes the way we look at old buildings."

European architects have reworked old buildings in this style for years, he continued, pointing to the Neues Museum in Berlin and Castelvecchio in Verona, "but Astley Castle's Stirling Prize win signals a major change in how we treat and make use of historic buildings here in the UK".

The work on the Grade II* listed building was overseen by Witherford Watson Mann Architects, who picked up the award at Central Saint Martins in London this evening.

"Until a few years ago picturesque ruins like Astley Castle would either have been left to rot, or be or be faithfully restored. Not anymore. Witherford Watson Mann's design is a stylish new template," Mr Olcayto said.

The practice, nominated for the award for the first time, has designed the Amnesty International UK headquarters and the Whitechapel Art Gallery extension.

They triumphed over five other shortlisted buildings including the Newhall Be housing development in Essex, and the Giant's Causeway's visitor centre in Northern Ireland.

The judges for the prize, which is now in its 18th year, met yesterday to decide on the winner after visiting the six shortlisted buildings.

The shortlist was announced in July, with five of the six named making it on for the first time, beating competition from former winners including Sir David Chipperfield and Dame Zaha Hadid.

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