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Leisure projects dominate shortlist for RIBA's best building in the world

The finalists selected by our jury represent an exceptional selection of buildings across the world, and notably include a number of buildings dedicated to culture and the arts
– Jane Duncan, RIBA president

Leisure buildings dominate the shortlist of the first ever RIBA International Prize, which is seeking the best building in the world.

The Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan by Zaha Hadid Architects; the Stormen Concert Hall in Bodø, Norway by DRDH Architects; the Arcquipelago Contemporary Arts Centre in The Azores by Menos é Mais Aquitectos; and the Museo Jumex in Mexico City by David Chipperfield all feature on the six-strong list.

The two other shortlisted buildings are the Ring of Remembrance war memorial in Northern France by AAPP – which is engraved with names of the thousands who died in WWI – and the UTEC university of engineering in Lima, Peru by Grafton Architects. The latter also has a leisure component, with the inclusion of a theatre and cinema space.

“The finalists selected by our jury represent an exceptional selection of buildings across the world, and notably include a number of buildings dedicated to culture and the arts, reflecting the visionary clients who have commissioned architecture of the highest calibre,” said RIBA president Jane Duncan.

“It demonstrates the understanding of how a building can powerfully communicate the shared history of our cultural past and present, and become a focus of civic pride for the people that use these spaces whether for meeting and enjoyment or cultural appreciation.

“Our panel of jurors have been particularly impressed by the way in which each building reacts to, resolves and assimilates into the varying geographies and contexts – from dense urban cities to a small town in the Arctic Circle. Each project resolves the complex demands of its context with ingenuity, exceptional detail and finishing and a sensitivity to the needs of the users and communities which will inhabit these spaces.”

The RIBA awards committee visited 30 buildings in over 20 countries and five continents over the summer. The Grand Jury of the prize, led by Richard Rogers, will now visit the final six buildings again before the winner is announced on Thursday, 24 November 2016.

Billie Tsien, founding partner of Tod Williams Billie Tsien Architects; Kunlé Adeyemi, founder and principal of NLÉ; Marilyn Jordan Taylor, the Dean of Architecture at the University of Pennsylvania’s School of Fine Arts; and Philip Gumuchdjian, founder of Gumuchdjian Architects and Chair of RIBA Awards also sit on the jury.

The RIBA International Prize was set up to consider any building in any country, irrespective of its function or budget, that “demonstrates a range of innovative responses to the role of public architecture, providing major new additions to their contexts and communities.”

The award was introduced to replace RIBA’s global Lubetkin Prize, which it cancelled in 2013 for being too narrow in its remit. It’s open to any qualified architect in the world, rather than being exclusive to RIBA members.

In the spotlight
The leisure contenders, in the words of RIBA

Arquipelago Contemporary Arts Centre (Menos é Mais) is located in The Azores, an archipelago of nine small islands in the middle of the Atlantic Ocean. Restoring the site of an 1890s sweet potato distillery, the building expertly combines restoration, reconstruction and new build, drawing on the history of the building and its distinctive black Basalt exterior to create a restrained, industrial character. Constructed over the course of three years, the process revealed a complex of cloisters and cells in the basement of the old distillery, which have been transformed to display artwork - an ancient backdrop for very contemporary use. The building has become a beacon for progress both locally and internationally, and has made a substantial impact on the local community - showing respect for its past and ambition for the future.

Arquipelago Contemporary Arts Centre

Zaha Hadid Architects’, Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku was designed to celebrate Azerbaijan’s independence and first president Heydar Aliyev. It was completed in 2013 and offers a vibrant programme of arts, music and performance to audiences in the vaulted spaces and distinctive wave-like form that dominates the eastern aspect of the city. The building represents a break from tradition - not least in the post-Soviet landscape of Baku, and now welcomes over 1000 visitors a day as both a public social space and a cultural nucleus for the city.

The complex landscape has been brought together into a single, fluid composition which appears out of the hill. The building is distinctive not only for its scale and undulating form, but for its use of white cladding and paving, a marked departure from the traditional architecture and aesthetic of the city. The heart of the building is found in its sophisticated and welcoming central auditorium; a warm performance space whose innovative use of oak to line and sculpt the interior showcases a sophistication in both vision and joinery.

Heydar Aliyev Centre

Museo Jumex by David Chipperfield Architects is a structure that celebrates the industrial heritage of its site context in Mexico City. It is home to the largest private collection of Latin American contemporary art in the world. Centrally located in a bustling and overcrowded city, the building offers a contemplative space in which visitors can escape the rush of the city.

A large public space is divided across three spacious levels; a glazed Piano Nobile gallery and a flexible secondary space punctuated by a single large window flooding the space with light. The top floor opens out to present the museum’s collection under a soft diffused daylight through original factory roof lights. The quality of light distinctive to Chipperfield’s practice defines the space, as does the consistent sense of quality in the materials and subtle detailing that separate public from work space. A characteristic dialogue of travertine and timber marks the Museo Jumex as a remarkable building.

Museo Jumex by David Chipperfield Architects

Stormen Concert Hall and Library by DRDH has created a new community focus for a small town, with two new civic buildings in Bodø, 100km inside the Arctic Circle. The studio’s first major building commission, the scheme is expertly stitched into the existing urban fabric, playing off the link to the town centre as well as the nearby harbour and the luminous experience of the Arctic sunshine. With rigorous attention to detail, material and the user’s experience of both the space of the library building and new concert hall spaces, the architect’s design is matched with technical ambition. The concert hall houses three music venues within its structure, and is considered comparable to the New York’s Carnegie Hall as one of the best in the world for symphonic music.

Stormen Concert Hall and Library

Leisure  architecture  design  RIBA  shortlist  competition 
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Leisure buildings dominate the shortlist of the first ever RIBA International Prize, which is seeking the best building in the world. The Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan by Zaha Hadid Architects; the Stormen Concert Hall in Bodø, Norway by DRDH Architects; the Arcquipelago Contemporary Arts Centre in The Azores by Menos é Mais Aquitectos; and the Museo Jumex in Mexico City by David Chipperfield all feature on the six-strong
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The late Zaha Hadid is shortlisted for the Heydar Aliyev Centre in Baku, Azerbaijan / Iwan Baan
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