“Sophisticated” library wins Stirling Prize

Níall McLaughlin Architects has scooped the 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize for its library for Magdalene College, Cambridge.

The 1,525m2 building, with its load-bearing brick structure and tiered, timber interior has been built to ‘last at least 400 years’. It was both the bookmakers’ and the AJ readers’ favourite to scoop the UK’s highest architectural accolade.

It is the first time Níall McLaughlin has won the Stirling Prize. His practice had previously been shortlisted for the award in 2013, 2015 and 2018.

Reduced carbon

The ‘exquisitely detailed’ building at the 700-year-old University of Cambridge college houses a new library – open 24 hours a day – as well as an archive and an art gallery. The project, which the practice won following a competition in 2014, replaced study spaces in the neighbouring 17th-century Grade I-listed Pepys Library.

The Stirling judges praised the building’s ‘simple but highly effective passive ventilation and natural lighting’ to reduce energy consumption and the use of materials, including engineered timber, to cut down its embodied carbon.

Speaking on behalf of the jury, RIBA president Simon Allford, described the building as ‘sophisticated, generous, architecture that has been built to last’.

He added: ‘Students have been gifted a calm, sequence of connected spaces where they, and future generations, will be able to contemplate and congregate, enjoying it both together and apart.

‘The overarching commitment to build something that will stand the test of time can be felt in every material and detail, and from every viewpoint. This is the epitome of how to build for the long-term.’

Responding to the news, McLaughlin said: ‘This is the first time a college has won the Stirling Prize. It is good to celebrate the contribution these remarkable communities have made to the development of modern architectural culture in Britain.’

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