Zaha Hadid Wins Stirling a Second Time, Beats Olympic Velodrome

Evelyn Grace Academy
Secondary-school students mingle on a terrace at the Evelyn Grace Academy in Brixton. The building is the first in London by the Iraqi-born, Pritzker Prize-winning architect Zaha Hadid. Source: Zaha Hadid Architects via Bloomberg

Zaha Hadid, an Iraqi-born architect, last night won the U.K.’s RIBA Stirling Prize for the second straight year, as judges favored her school in Brixton, south London, to rivals including the London 2012 Olympics Velodrome.

Hadid’s Evelyn Grace Academy -- a 36.5 million pound ($57 million) concrete-and-glass structure with a running track linking the campus gates -- was voted “best new European building built or designed in the U.K.” Last year’s winner, also by Hadid, was the MAXXI contemporary-art museum in Rome.

The academy “is an exceptional example of what can be achieved when we invest carefully in a well-designed new school building,” said RIBA President Angela Brady, who chaired the jury for the Stirling, the U.K.’s top architecture prize.

“The result -- a highly imaginative, exciting academy that shows the students, staff and local residents that they are valued -- is what every school should and could be,” Brady said in an e-mailed news release.

The other five Stirling nominees were Hopkins Architects, for the Velodrome; David Chipperfield (the 2007 winner) for the Folkwang Museum in Essen, Germany; the Royal Shakespeare Theatre in Stratford-Upon-Avon (Bennetts Associates Architects); the Angel Building in London (by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris); and the An Gaelaras cultural center in Derry, Northern Ireland (O’Donnell and Tuomey).

Hadid in 2004 became the first woman to win the Pritzker Architecture Prize, her profession’s highest accolade. In the last year, she has inaugurated two other U.K. projects: the 2012 London Olympics Aquatic Centre and the Riverside Museum in Glasgow, Scotland.

Busson’s Foundation

The Evelyn Grace Academy is constructed on the site of what was once a garbage-truck depot in Brixton, where the 1981 riots broke out. Built with government money, it is run by the ARK Foundation, which was co-founded by financier Arpad Busson.

In an interview at the academy’s inauguration in October 2010, Hadid said the place was “not like a fortress, where you have a school on the perimeter of the site, and everything within is not visible.” While there were secure gates, people outside could “see the activities within.”

Her hope, she said, was that students in an underprivileged part of London would avoid a “ghettoized and fortified life.”

RIBA stands for Royal Institute of British Architects. The award was named after architect Sir James Stirling. The winner receives 20,000 pounds. This year’s awards ceremony was held in the Magna Science and Adventure Centre in Rotherham, winner of the 2001 prize. Richard Rogers was the winner in 2009, and in 2008 Hadid’s Austrian ski-lift station was beaten by a housing project in Cambridge, England.

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