The Royal Institute of British Architects has awarded the 2022 Stirling Prize to Niall McLaughlin Architects for their New Library, Magdalene College; the first college to win the sought-after award. Awarded each year to the UK’s best new building, the winning scheme was unveiled at an event at RIBA headquarters in London.
"A brief to create a college library with a lifespan of 400 years — to replace a library gifted to Magdalene by Samuel Pepys 300 years previously — is no small task," RIBA shared. "Niall McLaughlin Architects have certainly risen to the challenge with this deft and inspiring temple to learning."
The library combines load-bearing brickwork with a horizontal engineered timber structure to establish a lofty vertical space with a complex three-dimensional tartan grid. The building draws on familiar predilections from previous McLaughlin projects — the references to Louis Kahn’s handling of oak-paneled window assemblies, for example, via the housing for Somerville College, Oxford — while also creating something wholly particular within the setting of the wider college.
The scheme was selected from a shortlist of six projects announced in July. One of the other shortlisted projects, Hackney New Primary School and 333 Kingsland Road by Henley Halebrown, won the People's Vote for the 2022 Stirling Prize after receiving one third of the votes.
The shortlist’s unveiling was followed by criticism from various groups on environmental grounds. Later in July, the Architects Climate Action Network called on RIBA to "stop celebrating architecture that is bad for the planet," while last week, architecture critic Kunle Barker argued that "we have to remember that the Stirling Prize is ostensibly an architecture competition and not a sustainability one."
By winning the 2022 edition of the award, Niall McLaughlin Architects joins 2021 Stirling Prize winners Grafton Architects for their academic and art space at Kingston University London, and 2019 winners Mikhail Riches and Cathy Hawley for their Goldsmith Street housing. The awards were canceled in 2020 due to the COVID-19 pandemic.
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