The Best of British Architecture 2019

The Royal Institute of British Architects has once again released the names of 54 winners of its national award, with the 2019 recipients including Coal Drops Yard by Heatherwick Studios, Kengo Kuma’s V&A Dundee, and The Secular Retreat by Peter Zumthor.

The RIBA National Awards has taken place every year since 1966 and has become a staple on the industry calendar, with the architectural community in the country celebrating the best buildings and architectural designs of the previous year in the UK. There is no limit on the types of winners and buildings that can be included, with this years list once again including large public buildings in some of Britain’s largest cities, to small private buildings that have been built in remote locations.

RIBA President Ben Derbyshire said, “Despite the political and economic challenges of recent years, our 2019 RIBA National Award winners show that UK architecture is highly adaptable, immensely talented and as community-focused as ever”.

There were a number of project this year that won due to the revival of historic structures, taking old structures and buildings and making innovative strides to modernise them. One of the most interesting was the refurbishment of a listed bus station dated from the 1960s in Preston – the Brutalist structure redesigned and repurposed by Cassidy + Ashton. Another example was that of a former observatory in Edinburgh undergoing a renovation to become a contemporary art centre.

RIBA is encouraged by the amount of winners on the list that have looked towards a creative approach to existing buildings and structures rather than just looking to construct new buildings on brand new sites. Derbyshire was full of praise due to the scale of the current environmental challenge that the world is facing and the need for a different approach to sustainable developments and investment in quality buildings. He wants to see more “projects that will inspire and meet the needs of generations to come.”

This sustainable approach could be seen in the celebration of several sustainable housing schemes, such as Goldsmith Street by Mikhail Riches, and the Mole Architects project for the first co-housing community in Cambridge. There is a need at the moment to not only look at environmentally friendly developments and sustainable futures, but also to tackle the chronic imbalance between the supply and demand for low-cost housing.

16 of the 54 winners in 2019 were cultural buildings, with a clear view that there has been a push towards creating cultural destinations that are of the highest quality. The National-Award winning buildings and architects behind the designs are chosen because they are innovators in the field, looking to construct future structures and buildings that are vital now, but hold that balance between future sustainability and a nod to history and integrity. The list is a demonstration of the best that British architecture has to offer – from the smallest architecture firms and structures, to the largest budgets in big city centre structures. It is a momentous list to look out for each year.