Burntwood School wins 2015 Stirling Prize

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AHMM has been shortlisted for the Stirling Prize three times previously, Brentwood is the firm's first win(Credit: Rob Parrish)

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The 2015 RIBA Stirling prize has been awarded to Allford Hall Monaghan Morris (AHMM) architects for Burntwood School. AHMM’s transformation of Burntwood School is said to reimagine a 1950s modernist secondary school campus for 2,000 girls and 200 staff. It was selected from a shortlist of six finalists.

The Stirling Prize is the UK's most prestigious architecture award and is "presented to the architects of the building that has made the greatest contribution to the evolution of architecture in the past year." Among the criteria taken into account are a building's design vision, innovation and originality, capacity to stimulate, engage and delight occupants and visitors, accessibility and sustainability, how fit the building is for its purpose and the level of client satisfaction.

Now in it's 20th year, the Stirling prize was last year awarded to Haworth Tompkins for the Liverpool Everyman Theatre. AHMM has been shortlisted for the award three times previously, for Westminster Academy (2008), Kentish Town Health Centre (2009) and for the Angel Building, London (2011). This year, however, is the first time the firm has won.

"Schools can and should be more than just practical, functional buildings, they need to elevate the aspirations of children, teachers and the wider community," says director of AHMM Paul Monaghan. "Good school design makes a difference to the way students value themselves and their education, and we hope that Burntwood winning the RIBA Stirling Prize shows that this is worth investing in."

Burntwood is located in the Wandsworth area of London, UK. It mixes contemporary design and six new buildings with the older, existing buildings. As well as applauding this approach, the judges commended the "superb integration of artwork, landscaping and engineering" and "its use of prefabrication, its low-energy strategy and the minimal disruption to teachers and pupils during construction."

The £40.9 million (US$63.2 million) project boasts four new four-story teaching pavilions, a new sports hall and a new performing arts building. The new buildings are said to be placed among the existing ones in such a way as to create a complete and coherent campus.

Described by RIBA as "a very sculptural building," Burntwood now has a range of education spaces, including conventional classrooms and interactive open spaces. AHMM employed double height spaces at the end of each corridor to bring natural light into the building and to create well-framed views. The firm is also said to have worked closely with an artist to produce large, colorful murals that act as both signposting and modern art.

The other buildings on the shortlist were Niall McLaughlin Architects' Darbishire Place, Reiach and Hall Architects' Maggie’s Cancer Care Centre, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners' NEO Bankside housing, Heneghan Peng architects University of Greenwich Stockwell Street Building and MUMA's The Whitworth. The presentation event was held at the RIBA in London last night.

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