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House at Maghera named Northern Ireland's Building of the Year

Published 02/06/2016

Liam McCormick prize winner: House at Maghera, Castwellan, Co.Down by McGonigle McGrath
Liam McCormick prize winner: House at Maghera, Castwellan, Co.Down by McGonigle McGrath
Best Public Space WINNER. Lagan Weir Footbridge, Belfast by AECOM
Best Public Building Under £3m WINNER. Home from Home, near Belfast City Hospital by McGonigle McGrath (Also won a RIBA Regional Award and RIBA Regional Client of the Year Award)
Best Single House or Extension Over £100,000 JOINT WINNER. House at Maghera, Castlewellan, Co.Down by McGonigle McGrath
Best Social Housing Prjoect WINNER. Killynure Green, Carryduff by PDP London Architects
Best Single House or Extension Over £100,000 JOINT WINNER. Grillagh Water House, Maghera, Co.L’derry by Patrick Bradley Architects
Best Cultural Project WINNER. Portico, Portaferry, Co.Down by Maxwell Pierce
Best Public Building Under £3m COMMENDATION
Best Conservation of Built Heritage JOINT WINNER. The Graduate School at Queen’s University Belfast by Consarc Design Group (Also won a RIBA Regional Award and a RIBA Regional Conservation Award)
Best Commercial Project up to £3m WINNER. Creative Industries Building, Weavers Court, Belfast by Doherty Architects
Best Conservation of Built Heritage JOINT WINNER. Sion Mills Stables, Co.Tyrone by Hearth Housing Association and Caroline Dickson Architects
Integration of Art Award WINNER. The Atrium at W5, Odyssey, Belfast by White Ink
Best Public Building Over £3m COMMENDATION
Best Social Housing Project COMMENDATION
Regeneration Award WINNER. Girdwood Community Hub, Belfast by Michael Whitley Architects
Best Public Building Over £3m WINNER. Banbridge Health and Care Centre by Kennedy Fitzgerald Architects in association with Avanti Architects (Also won a RIBA Regional Award)
Sustainability Award WINNER. Winner: Crest Pavilion, Enniskillen by Paul McAlister Architects Ltd
Kieran McGonigle and Aidan McGrath of McGonigle McGrath with Martin Hare, RSUA President

House at Maghera in Castlewellan, County Down has been named Northern Ireland's Building of the Year by the Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA).

The family dwelling located three miles from Newcastle in Co Down won the Liam McCormick prize and joins an illustrious list of buildings including the Giants Causeway Visitors Centre and the Lyric Theatre which have previously won the prestigious award named after one of Ireland’s greatest 20th century architects.

View all the winners in our gallery above

Other winning buildings at the RSUA Design Awards 2016 included the uplifting Banbridge Health and Care Centre by Kennedy Fitzgerald Architects in association with Avanti Architects, an innovative social housing scheme in Carryduff for Choice Housing designed by PDP London Architects and the sensitively restored Graduate School at Queen’s University by Consarc Design Group.

RSUA President Martin Hare said: "The RSUA Design Awards primary purpose is to promote excellence in the design of our built environment with the view to making Northern Ireland a better place to be.

"There is no doubt that all thirteen projects that have received awards this year have truly enhanced our landscape and our communities. These projects demonstrate the positive impact good design can have on our society including its critical role in making Northern Ireland a more attractive place for citizens, tourists and investors."

"I applaud the determination of the clients, architects and everyone involved in the delivery of these projects as they have upheld design quality often against a backdrop of severe budgetary pressures. It shows it can be done and sets down a challenge to everybody involved in creating our built environment to match or even exceed that design quality. We all have a role in creating a brighter future for Northern Ireland and architects are ready to play their part."

Full list of winners and why they won

Liam McCormick Prize

Winner: House at Maghera, Castwellan, Co.Down by McGonigle McGrath

About: This family home for a professional couple and their three children was designed to be bright and spacious and complimentary to the character or the village.

Kieran McGonigle and Aidan McGrath of McGonigle McGrath with Martin Hare, RSUA President
Kieran McGonigle and Aidan McGrath of McGonigle McGrath with Martin Hare, RSUA President

Judges said: “The Liam McCormack Prize is awarded to the entry that best demonstrates design excellence in all its attributes. This superb family dwelling exudes such excellence from the inspired development of the underlying concept through to the highly disciplined and detailed execution of the resultant design vision. This wonderfully crafted home evokes a strong sense of place, paying subtle homage to local traditional building forms, whilst also creating a strong visual link to the calm solidity of the backdrop of the Mourne Mountains.”

Best Social Housing Project sponsored by the Northern Ireland Housing Executive

Winner: Killynure Green, Carryduff by PDP London Architects

About: A social housing development commissioned by Choice Housing Ireland with sustainability at its core.

Judges said: “This successful competition-winning development is an exemplar project which demonstrates a unique approach to comply with an ambitious sustainability brief. A series of social housing clusters are carefully positioned in a landscape of private, semi-private and public open spaces. Enclosed south facing winter gardens define the architecture of the housing clusters.”

Best Single House or Extension Over £100,000 sponsored by Lowry Building and Civil Engineering

Joint Winner: Grillagh Water House, Maghera, Co.L’derry by Patrick Bradley Architects

About: An experimental housing project designed to help change the perceptions of what rural contemporary architecture is or can be.

Judges said: “A carefully composed piece of architecture making innovative use of shipping containers, the design of this delightful rural dwelling displays self-confident and bold decision making in both its exterior and interior treatments. The siting of the dwelling on the family farm is expertly managed taking full advantage of the surrounding countryside and integrating perfectly with its immediate natural landscape. Stunning and memorable.”

Joint Winner: House at Maghera, Castlewellan, Co.Down by McGonigle McGrath

About: This family home for a professional couple and their three children was designed to be bright and spacious and complimentary to the character or the village. Winner of the Liam McCormick Prize 2016.

Judges said: “This brilliantly conceived dwelling is rooted in the history of traditional rural building forms, and is both elegant and restrained throughout. A masterly control of internal and external spaces, building materials, precise detailing and natural light define this exceptional and consummate design.”

Best Public Building Under £3millon sponsored by the Central Procurement Directorate of the Department of Finance

Winner: Home from Home, near Belfast City Hospital by McGonigle McGrath (Also won a RIBA Regional Award and RIBA Regional Client of the Year Award)

About: One of a series of 'Homes from Home' for CLIC Sargent, the Cancer Charity. This facility offers the families of children undergoing treatment in the nearby Regional Cancer Centre free accommodation for the duration of the treatment. It also separately accommodates the charity's local office.

Judges said: “This accomplished restoration and extension is a well detailed and thoughtful project. The collaboration between architect and client is evident. The contemporary expression fits perfectly in the context of the conservation area.”

Best Public Building Over £3millon sponsored by the Central Procurement Directorate of the Department of Finance

Winner: Banbridge Health and Care Centre by Kennedy Fitzgerald Architects in association with Avanti Architects (Also won a RIBA Regional Award)

About: A local health facility to provide a range of primary care, community care and actute diagnostic services.

Judges said: “This project comprises a variety of defined spaces providing a wide spectrum of care services to Banbridge and its catchment area. Notwithstanding the complexity of the programme and the challenges of public procurement, the outcome here is a calm uplifting civic building deftly interwoven into its site, a tangible affirmation of the value of the public domain. This is a laudable and humanising achievement transcending current fixations with that which is readily quantifiable, to provide delightful, bright, well-proportioned spaces of tranquil excellence and service for this society. In deciding on the winner of the Liam McCormack Prize for the best overall project from a final shortlist of four very strong projects, Banbridge Health and Wellbeing Centre was judged to be a very close runner-up to the winner.”

Best Commercial Project up to £3million sponsored by JP Corry

Winner: Creative Industries Building, Weavers Court, Belfast by Doherty Architects

About: A building that was a candidate for demolition and replacement became the feature of this project to provide Grade A office space on behalf of Linfield Properties.

Judges said: “A rare and thoughtful example of a carefully considered environment that takes a holistic view of the working day providing a variety of tranquil work and rest spaces, both internal and external. The existing building is seamlessly integrated into an accomplished formal proposition nuanced by orientation, aspect, and materiality.”

Best Public Space sponsored by the Department for Infrastructure

Winner: Lagan Weir Footbridge, Belfast by AECOM

About: The bridge, designed for both cyclists and pedestrians, was conceived as a silver blade spanning the River Lagan and as an extension of the public realm from Donegal Quay.  

Judges said: “This new addition to the city provides not just an attractive connection between the centre of Belfast and Titanic Quarter, but is in its own right a new public space. It connects with a number of recent public realm works along the river. The bridge is wide, enticing and elegant. It has created a place on the river for the public to pause and admire the vistas along the Lagan, both day and night.”

Best Cultural Project sponsored by the Department for Communities

Winner: Portico, Portaferry, Co.Down by Maxwell Pierce

About: The Friends of Portaferry Presbyterian Church took action to save this Grade A listed building and to put in place a sustainable business plan involving the building being used by the wider community.

Judges said: “The Portico is a very beautiful building rescued from near death, a reinvigorated place of worship but now also a catalysing and inclusive cultural focus for the Ards peninsula. The deft and talented sensibility applied to the reworking of the building fabric is matched by witty new insertions; an example of creative and enjoyed curation delivered through focused community action.”

Best Conservation of Built Heritage sponsored by Armagh City, Banbridge and Craigavon Borough Council

Joint Winner: The Graduate School at Queen’s University Belfast by Consarc Design Group (Also won a RIBA Regional Award and a RIBA Regional Conservation Award)

About: The Grade B listed Lynn Building is a high profile building on the main site at Queen's University and one of the best examples of Ruskinian Gothic architecture in Belfast.

Judges said: “The refurbishment of the brick and polychrome stone exterior of the Old Library has been executed with the utmost care, preserving the historic fabric of the building and demonstrating exemplary judgement, skill and craftsmanship by the design and construction teams.

At first floor level the scheme has successfully and sensitively integrated into one of Ireland's richest High Victorian interiors a range of high quality reading areas and seminar rooms, maintaining its calm, imposing and almost ecclesiastical character.”

Joint Winner: Sion Mills Stables, Co.Tyrone by Hearth Housing Association and

Caroline Dickson Architects

About: One of the most prominent building in the Sion Mills conservation area which had been disused for 50 years has been transformed into an educational and community facility including a cafe, museum and craft shop.

Judges said: 2Through this well-considered and sensitive combination of conservation, reconfiguration and extension, a highly committed client and design team have succeeded in restoring the 1835 Sion Stables from virtual dereliction to a building that contributes positively to the architectural quality and community life of the village as well as chronicling the inspirational achievement of the Herdman family’s aspirations for combining social reform and industrial entrepreneurship.”

Regeneration Award sponsored by Metal Technology

Winner: Girdwood Community Hub, Belfast by Michael Whitley Architects

About: The Hub is the first element of the development of a 14 acre former military barracks site in a contested part of lower north Belfast. The facility, commissioned by Belfast City Council, is a community space aimed at supporting to peace, reconciliation and further investment in the area.

Judges said: “The challenge of developing this contested space in an interface area in North Belfast cannot be understated. The building makes a significant statement of confidence in the area and its future. The design is welcoming, accessible to all and is an impressive beginning for the further regeneration of the area.”

Sustainability Award sponsored by the Strategic Investment Board

Winner: Crest Pavilion, Enniskillen by Paul McAlister Architects Ltd

About: The educational facility for South West College doubles as a teaching model of sustainable construction for the local building sector.

Judges said: “This Centre for Renewable Energy and Sustainable Technologies achieved its sustainability brief through adopting innovative design and construction principles to meet all three demanding standards of Passive House Certified, BREEAM Excellent and Zero Carbon. As such it acts as a demonstration building for the construction industry providing a sustainable, environmentally friendly, attractive and inspiring learning and working environment.”

Integration of Art Award sponsored by the Arts Council

Winner: The Atrium at W5, Odyssey, Belfast by White Ink

About: An art installation which is designed to be climbed.

Judges said: “A collaboration between White Ink architects and the artist Spencer Luckey, this beautifully designed sculpture is located in the atrium space at W5. The Celtic Dragon sculpture invites children to climb the spans of its arched wings. A visually stunning and integrated interactive piece of artwork.”

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