Belfast Telegraph

'Visionary' Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre in the running for design prize

BY AMANDA FERGUSON

The Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre is in the running for the most prestigious of architecture prizes.

The eye-catching building is one of six projects vying for the 2013 Royal Institute of British Architects' Stirling Prize, it was announced yesterday.

It will be competing for the coveted award with a revamped 1960s tower block, a home in the ruins of a 12th century castle, a chapel for an order of nuns, an estate of new homes in Essex and a Limerick medical school.

The Riba Stirling Prize celebrates the year's best buildings and, for the first time in the contest's 18-year history, half the projects have women at the helm.

The National Trust centre, which sits alongside the Giant's Causeway on the north Antrim coast, opened just over a year ago and has exceeded all visitor number expectations.

Part of an £18.5m investment, it takes inspiration from the site's 40,000 hexagonal basalt stones.

The centre, designed by Dublin-based Heneghan Peng architects, has been described by Riba president Angela Brady as "genuinely courageous in laying out a new visionary approach".

It is the only Northern Ireland entry on the shortlist and is joint bottom favourite to win with bookmaker William Hill, at odds of 3/1.

The bookies' favourite is Bishop Edward King Chapel in Cuddesdon, Oxfordshire.

The £2m project was built for Ripon College and the Community of St John the Baptist nuns and features a series of high windows which flood it with natural light.

Also on the list is the once despised Park Hill tower block complex in Sheffield which has been given a contemporary refit. The half-century old "brutalist" concrete estate was given Grade II listing in 1997 but for many in the city it had long been an unloved eyesore until it was given an overhaul, which included preserving a notable piece of graffiti in neon lights, reading "I love you will u marry me".

A more contemporary project on the shortlist is Newhall Be in Harlow, Essex, a £12m group of 84 homes which judges believe "raises the bar for suburban housing developments".

Ms Brady said she was delighted to see "two amazing and highly original housing projects" on the shortlist.

She added: "All six shortlisted projects are ground-breaking in their own way – buildings that deliver more than could ever have been expected.

"Some of them, such as Park Hill and the Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre, are genuinely courageous in laying out a new visionary approach."

The winner will be announced on September 26 in London.

FACTFILE

The six Sterling Prize shortlisted buildings, with odds at William Hill, are:

* Bishop Edward King Chapel, Oxfordshire, by Niall McLaughlin Architects, London

* Park Hill Phase 1, Sheffield, by Hawkins\Brown with Studio Egret West, London

* Astley Castle, Warwickshire, by Witherford Watson Mann Architects, London

* University of Limerick Medical School by Grafton Architects, Dublin

* Giant's Causeway Visitor Centre by Heneghan Peng architects, Dublin

* Newhall Be, Harlow by Alison Brooks Architects, London

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