The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has named social enterprise Onion Collective as its Client of the Year for 2023 over their role in spearheading the creation of an artists' space called East Quay in Somerset County, South West England.
The project from Invisible Studio and Ellis Williams Architects helps to reinvigorate the seaside town of Watchet. Studios, a community workshop, guest lodgings, café, and gallery spaces were created on the site of a disused former boatyard that was annexed from the town. Construction took over eight years to complete and was eventually realized at £4.5 million (or $5.45 million USD).
RIBA says it “cannot help but lift your spirits, and the evocative and distinctive architecture has provided a backbone to the town that has consolidated the community.”
RIBA’s jury Chair Denise Bennetts (of Bennetts Associates) also commented: “Great clients are vital to creating buildings and places that make a difference to people’s lives. Congratulations to Onion Collective for their success and passion for enterprise and creativity. Their vision, and dedication to creating meaningful change, enabled Invisible Studio and Ellis Williams to deliver a model for exceptional community-led economic regeneration. East Quay is a fantastic example of how great architecture, collaboration, and co-creation can empower communities and deliver incredible, transformative benefits.”
The female-led Collective was founded in Watchet in 2013 to drive the transformation of the marina’s quayside and further empower the community towards more beneficial forms of development. They join past winners such as the Royal Botanic Gardens and Cambridge Mosque Trust on a list that dates to the award’s inception in 1998.
The project also earned top honors as the 2023 RIBA South West Building of the Year. More information about the East Quay development can be found here.
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