David Chipperfield's design for the Museum of Modern Literature in Germany won the UK's top architecture prize
Betting shops in Great Britain got it nearly correct when they laid odds on the winner of this year's Stirling Prize, an honor bestowed by the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) for the building deemed the year's greatest contribution to British architecture. David Chipperfield Architects' Museum of Modern Literature, in Marbach am Neckar, Germany, received the prize at a gala televised live on Saturday night. The architect had two buildings among the six semi-finalists, but its America's Cup Building, in Valencia, Spain, was favored to win at 3-1 by the oddsmaker William Hill. Odds for the Museum of Modern Literature were 7-2.
Much like Britain's Turner Prize, which recognizes a cutting edge artist under the age of 50, following the Stirling Prize is something of a national spectator sport. It has been awarded annually since 1996 in honor of the late architect James Stirling. Although only RIBA members are eligible, buildings may be located anywhere within the European Union. Past winners included Richard Rogers' Barajas Airport, in Madrid, Spain, and 30 St. Mary Axe, by Foster & Partners.
Chipperfield's Museum of Modern Literature was completed in 2006 as a symbol of Germany's reunification, bringing together texts that had been separated during the country's 45-year division. Judges praised the building's entrance sequence as "brilliant," writing: "The visitor crosses an open terrace overlooking the valley, negotiates a series of shallow steps to enter the generous portal formed in the colonnade, and then enters through giant hardwood doors. A staircase descends to the collections with their required diminishing lighting levels. It is at this moment of descent that the building shows its pedigree—a sense of a progression to somewhere beyond, combined with a rich but selective palette of materials and illuminated with subdued top lighting."
Judging the prize this year were Tom Bloxham, chair of Urban Splash; writer and philosopher Alain de Botton; architect Louisa Hutton; Kieran Long, editor of The Architects' Journal; and Sunand Prasad, RIBA president. The other 2007 semi-finalists, announced in July, were the Casa da Musica, in Porto, Portugal, designed by Office for Metropolitan Architecture; the Dresden Station Redevelopment, in Dresden, Germany, designed by Foster + Partners; The Savill Building, in Windsor, England, designed by Glenn Howells Architects; and the Young Vic Theatre, London, designed by Haworth Tompkins.