Four-strong shortlist unveiled for Scotland’s building of the year
Two exceptional new buildings for Scottish universities and a brace of beautiful rural homes make up the shortlist for the RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award.
Showcasing the exceptional talent of architects working in Scotland today, the award is the climax of the Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland’s awards programme for 2023.
The 2023 RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award shortlist is as follows:
Campus Central, University of Stirling by Page\Park Architects
So picturesque is the Stirling University campus that on arrival it was remarked by the jury that it has the air of an alpine research institute. The estate includes outstanding 1960s buildings, and the masterplan represents a realization of 20th century modernist aspirations for education and for architecture. Until recently however there has been ‘spatial knot’ of poor accessibility exacerbated by the presence of a bus terminal and roundabout.
Campus Central by Page\Park Architects has resolved this problem. Part new build and part extensive reuse of a 1970s steel framed structure, the building and its associated landscape by Raeburn Farquhar Bowen has brought generosity and simplicity to the circulation, and a welcoming central entrance to the wider campus.
The architecture deals confidently with significant site constraints, resulting in a characterful and well executed new addition, but it is in the clever augmentation and marrying together with the old that a newly flexible and humane environment has been provided for learning, studying and pastoral support.
Cuddymoss, North Ayrshire by Ann Nisbet Studio
Set in the Ayrshire landscape, Cuddymoss by Ann Nisbet Studio was conceived as a ‘building within a ruin’. On arrival it is not immediately obvious that anything but the ruin is there – key to the magic of this project. The simplicity of the building concept has been realised with great clarity and care. There is a respect for the lifespan of the ruin, from its history to possible future uses (very few alterations have been made to the ruin itself so the intervention can be removed and the ruin reused by future generations).
The intervention within the ruin sits back from the existing stone structure, creating deep reveals in the original openings, making it difficult to spot from the outside and creating a beautiful effect internally.
A new timber clad extension matches the form of the ruin and projects out to the wider landscape, the silver tone of the wood making it appear to dissolve against the background. There is an element of poetic playfulness to the house - with windows carefully curated in such a way that the landscape as if it is entering the building. At Cuddymoss new and old come together with control and a lightness of touch which is rarely done with such skill.
Hundred Acre Wood, Argyll and Bute by Denizen Works
Situated within the beautiful landscape overlooking Loch Awe, is a large silver-grey house which occasionally glints as the light catches its carved surface. This is the effect of rendering a house in recycled TV screens, a material choice which started as a joke (the client does not like television), but has resulted in an unexpectedly beautiful exterior. Aggregate sizes change across the building surface to imitate erosion, a response to the exposed site and harsh weather.
The form of the house has been developed from a study of historic Scottish architecture as well as from the sculptural works of Eduardo Chillida. The plan is designed around a huge central hall, with warm light bouncing off a two metre wide circular rooflight or oculus, lined in gold leaf.
Thick walls with deep reveals create spectacularly sculptural spaces to the perimeter. Each room has an entirely different character (the barrel vaulted dining room is a highlight), with all enjoying spectacular and carefully curated views across the landscape.
Laidlaw Music Centre, University of St Andrews by Flanagan Lawrence
The University of St Andrews Laidlaw Music Centre caters for professional, student and community users alike. It is a considerate and well composed addition to the city’s ancient centre, complementing its listed neighbours. The plan meaningfully connects to the streetscape and the east elevation steps smartly in response to mature tree canopies. Close up the building exhibits an unexpected and appealing informality: musical instruments are visibly stored along a glazed edge of the ground floor, a balcony over the entrance provides for ad hoc outdoor performances towards the newly defined quad below.
Alongside the suite of rehearsal and practice spaces contained within the building, the main performance space - the McPherson Recital Room - incorporates two world firsts for a chamber hall: a fully mechanized floor beneath it and a reverberation chamber above. These innovations allow the space to be tuneable both spatially and acoustically. The result is glorious.
The RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award was established in 2002 with a mission to find and celebrate the best building in Scotland each year. All types of architectural projects in Scotland are eligible, and are assessed by an expert jury who look at each project’s architectural integrity, usability and context, delivery and execution, and sustainability. The shortlist is drawn from the winners of the 2023 RIAS Awards, which were announced in June.
The jury for the 2023 award is: Tracy Meller (chair) – senior partner, RSHP; Ellie Stathaki – architecture editor, Wallpaper; and Chris Stewart – president, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland.
The award is named in memory of its founder and patron, the inspired architect/developer Andy Doolan, who died in 2004. The architects of the winning building receive a £10,000 cash prize, making this one of the most significant architecture awards in the world. The award would not exist without Andy Doolan’s extraordinary generosity and vision, and his family have kindly continued their support. The Scottish Government also generously supports the award.
Tracy Meller, senior partner at RSHP and chair of the 2023 Doolan Award jury, said: “We have a tough job to select a winner from the four outstanding buildings on this year’s Doolan Award shortlist. Whether unlocking a tricky urban challenge or doing justice to a remarkable rural setting, each has a superb relationship with its context.
“Their clients’ briefs could not be more different, and yet each building demonstrates exceptional imagination, skill and flair. I know Andrew Doolan wanted the award established in his name to celebrate the very best of Scottish architecture, and this year’s shortlist does exactly that.”
The winner of the 2023 RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award will be announced on 30 November.