Masterpiece! MMU’s £34m School of Art in running for prestigious building award

Manchester Metropolitan University’s £34million School of Art could join a prestigious list of world recognised buildings this week.

MMU’s School of Art could join a number of buildings from the region to scoop the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize for best building in the UK, when the final announcement­ is made on October 16.

The Stirling Prize, the UK’s most prestigious architecture award, recognises the best building in the UK.

Architects such as Manchester’s renowned Lord (Norman) Foster of Foster and Partners and modernist – Lord (Richard) Rogers of Rogers Stirk Harbour & Partners have all been acknowledged for their work.

A spokesman for RIBA said: “The RIBA Stirling Prize is awarded to the building that has made the biggest contribution to the evolution of architecture in a given year.

“The shortlist comprises no ordinary new swimming pool, office block, theatre, library or university – they are beautiful, inspiring and transformative new buildings that their communities can relish and be proud of.”

Like great art and poetry, great architecture can move you and change your opinions of art in a moment by learning looking past a building’s façade.

MARVEL: The School of Art was called a  a ‘modern student factory’ by judges (Image courtesy of David Dixon, with thanks)

Architecture has become one of the true great art forms, with one influencing the other immensely, such as Santiago Calatrava’s incredibly entrancing Transport Hub as part the new World Trade Center in New York, to create unrivalled beauty and awe. 

But according to RIBA, grandiose architecture isn’t always the defining factor when it comes to deciding who wins the prestigious award.

“This RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist is sending out the clear message that great buildings don’t only need great architects and clients but they need the patronage of the community they have been designed to serve if they are to be truly successful,” the spokesman said.

“The shortlisted buildings are all major new additions to an already dense urban fabric in the cities they serve.

“However, they are remarkably crafted buildings and the closer you look at their detail, both internally and externally, and their materiality, the more impressive they become.” 

Founded in 1996, the Stirling Prize includes any building in the UK and any European Union building designed by a British architect.

In its 18-year history, 33.3% of winning designs have come from London, 16.6% from Cambridge, 22.2% from EU designs, and 27.7% from the rest of the UK.

The first winning building was the University of Salford’s Centenary Building by Stockport’s Stephen Hodder.

HISTORIC: Salford’s Centenary Building was the very first winner of the award (Image courtesy of Skip88, with thanks)

Outside the UK the first winning building UK was the Music School in Stuttgart in 1997 by James Sterling, Michael Wilford and Associates – who also designed the Lowry Centre, Salford.

This year’s Stirling Prize shortlist includes three London designs – The Shard, London School of Economics Saw Swee Hock Student Centre, London Aquatics Centre – The Library of Birmingham, and two designs from the North West.

The School of Art will be competing against the other North West entry, Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre, which recently reopened following multi-million pound redevelopment over two years.

The £34million School of Art is designed by Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios, who previously designed Manchester Met’s Business School and new Students Union building, and was named the best building in the North West by RIBA after its completion last year,

Stirling Prize judges praised the building, saying: “The Manchester School of Art is a modern student factory – a hot house of creativity with a level of interaction between students of different disciplines never before achieved.

“It feels as if you are entering a metropolitan art gallery rather than a university department. This is an atrium with real purpose: providing public (who are allowed in thus far) and other students with glimpses of works of art and their making.”

MARVEL: London’s The Shard is one of the front-runner’s for the award (Image courtesy of, with thanks)

In a statement, Manchester Metropolitan’s Vice Chancellor Prof John Brooks, said: “Arts and culture have a vital role in the education of our young people and in the values of society.

“It is vital that we have been able to take a long-term view about the critical importance of the Arts to our well-being and the stability of our society.”

The School is a major refurbishment of a 1960s tower block foundation that also included an extension to the current building and RIBA praised the work and skill of Feilden Clegg Bradley in the project.

Given the prestigious nature of the prize, MMU were simply honoured to have been shortlisted and in the running for one the globe’s most recognised artistic awards.

Deputy Vice Chancellor Prof Jean-Noel Ezingeard said how proud he was of the news: “Being shortlisted has given the School tremendous exposure.

“In the words of the Dean, the new building is a game changer in how Universities teach Art and Design.”

Not only will this give the school and university greater exposure, it will push the quality of the school ever higher to become a premier study centre for the arts.

This was a sentiment echoed by Deputy Vice Chancellor Myskka Guzkowska, who said: “The Benzie Building has transformed the way in which our staff teach and, the way in which our students learn.

“As a result, the quality of the teaching and learning in the School of Art is of an increasingly high standard.”

To vote for the Stirling Prize for best building in the UK, click here.

Main image courtesy of Number 10, with thanks.

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