So Astley Castle, designed by Witherford Watson Mann has just won the RIBA Stirling Prize for Architecture! I’m very happy with the decision if not a little disappointed, as Niall Mclaughlins Bishop Edward Kind Chapel in Oxfordshire was my personal favourite to win, with the castle being my second.
I’ve been keeping up with the Stirling Prize quite a lot this year. I attended the RIBA Stirling Stories on the 10th of September in London, to have the opportunity to hear all six practices in the shortlist talk about their own schemes, explain their working method, and put forward an argument as to why they had contributed the most to Architecture.
What struck me as I listened was how much Astley Castle, and the King Bishop Chapel, were the two real labours of love. These were the only two to me that appeared crafted, loved and almost like prized art pieces, as their own designers and makers talked us through them with real zeal and enthusiasm for their work.
Witherford Watson Mann, the Architects of Astley Castle, began their 6 minute pitch with ‘We like to go for walks, and we found this castle on one of those walks’. Immediately they were narrating to us their own working method, taking us on a journey through their long procedure. They argued that their bespoke approach to restoring the Castle, by almost not restoring it was not a niche project, unrelated to British architecture as a whole. Instead they argued that this very light handed approach to what has been already built can be applied all around us. So many buildings lie derelict and crumbling, Witherford Watson Mann champion the approach, through Astley Castle, that we should let them hold their past stories, memories and histories in their crumbling walls, and very lightly install and place newer structure around and between the wreckage. I think it is a beautiful approach and a well deserved winner for the 2013 Stirling Prize! What do you think? Who was your favourite to win?