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Bayside, Worthing wins Building Beauty Awards 2023, the richest prize in UK architecture

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The Royal Fine Art Commission Trust unveiled the winners of its 2023 Building Beauty Awards at a glittering ceremony in the Sea Containers House amphitheatre. With prizes presented by Booker Prize-winning magic realist author Sir Ben Okri, the awards – sponsored by Ballymore – celebrate new buildings, engineering structures and urban landscaping schemes that add beauty to Britain’s built environment. The esteemed judging panel was led by Stephen Bayley Hon FRIBA, Chairman of the Royal Fine Art Commission Trust and one of Britain’s foremost design critics.

Sir Ben Okri said of the awards, “The Building Beauty Awards has scored another triumph in choosing buildings, structures and schemes that bring hope and give delight. They contribute to the regeneration of their surroundings and gift us visions of creative courage, a quality much needed in our times. They remind us that we always have a choice between the indifferent and the beautiful, and that beauty in architecture enhances freedom.”

Overall Winner & Building Winner

The overall winner, chosen from the four category winners, was Bayside in Worthing, which received a £12,000 cash prize – the richest prize in British architecture – and will now represent the UK in the race for the International Building Beauty Prize at the 2023 World Architecture Festival in Singapore. Bayside was also the winner of the Building Award, beating Barking Riverside Station and One Silk Street to take the title. This mixed tenure housing development, designed by Allies & Morrison for Roffey Homes, comprises a 170ft seafront tower alongside a six-storey garden square and a beachside café.

Copyright: Tim Crocker

“This is an impressive exercise in using local references to create an original and powerful landmark – a worthy replacement for the depressing 1960s swimming pool that previously occupied the site and which, ironically, turned its back on the sea.” commented the judging panel, chaired by Stephen Bayley, “It sits literally beachside and forms an exclamation mark that balances the horizontal mass of the pier. At the same time, it bookends the seafront terraces of Regency Worthing, harmonising with their white stucco while steering clear of weak historicism. Seen from the distant pier, it announces itself as a destination – not aggressively, but as a complement to the historic town.”

Engineering Winner

Woolbeding Glasshouse in Midhurst, Sussex, was the winner of the Engineering Award, coming out on top over the Cody Dock Rolling Bridge. Designed by Heatherwick Studio for the Woolbeding Charity in collaboration with Eckersley O’Callaghan, who worked on the structural and façade engineering, this ten-sided, 1500sq ft subtropical greenhouse is inspired by Victorian ornamental terrariums, with an opening roof using a hydraulic mechanism to give the plants direct sunlight and ventilation.

Copyright: Raquel Diniz

“This is a muscular piece of equipment that performs a delicate task with delicacy”, said the judges, “On one level it is an eyecatcher in a sublime designed landscape: from that perspective it bears comparison, though on a smaller scale, to I.M. Pei’s celebrated summer house (also glass and aluminium) at Oare in Wiltshire. This version has the added attraction of movement, the sepals opening slowly and deliberately as the petals of a plant might in response to light. Fully open, they resemble the rays of a crown when seen from the ground, or a lotus flower when seen from above.”

Public Space Winner

Taking the crown in the Public Space Award category was Elephant Park in Elephant & Castle, London; a public realm project by Gillespies for Lendlease, beating the Battersea Power Station Public Realm to the title. Elephant Park is a sequence of landscaped spaces conceived as part of the regeneration of the old Heygate Estate in south London, and operating on a range of scales from a new set-piece park (at two acres one of the largest post-war parks in central London) to a transformation of the streetscape along a major traffic artery.

Copyright: John Sturrock

“This is a project that brings genuine, lasting improvements to the public realm in a neighbourhood that has come close in the recent past to being an urban dystopia, blighted by gargantuan post-war developments that became more and more oppressive as they fell into decay.” commented the judges, “This subtle network of green spaces has a redemptive, softening quality, that knits together a renewed townscape and holds out the promise of a more civilised future.”

Little Gem Winner

The “Little Gem” title went to the Plas Glyn-y-Weddw Café in Llanbedrog, Gwynedd, designed by Sanderson Sculpture, Mark Wray Architects and Fold for Plas Glyn-y-Weddw, beating Angel Yard to the top spot. This spectacular sculptural addition to Wales’s oldest art gallery comprises marine-grade structural glazing, wrapped in an envelope textured with nearly 90,000 handcrafted stainless-steel barnacles, which create a permeable layer that filters natural light to the interior.

Copyright: Gareth Jenkins

The judges commented, “Inspired by the globular form of sea urchins, covered in welded encrustations and with a touch of Oriental exoticism to the interior, it has enough chutzpah and romantic appeal to become a destination in its own right. Certainly, it is more likely to raise a smile than the politely conventional conservatory it replaced. On a practical note, the highly textured carapace and determinedly non-orthogonal form are likely to preserve the integrity of the design, providing a kind of in-built protection against the rash of random signs and notices that so easily creeps over small buildings of this sort.”

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