Museums and galleries triumph in Riba National Awards - Museums Association

Museums and galleries triumph in Riba National Awards

Windermere Jetty Museum and Tintagel Castle Footbridge also nominated for Stirling Prize 2021
Architecture Awards
Windermere Jetty Museum in the Lake District has been commended for its sensitive relationship with the water
Windermere Jetty Museum in the Lake District has been commended for its sensitive relationship with the water Christian Richters

From a footbridge over choppy Cornish waters to an airtight paper archive, it’s been a successful year for museum, gallery and heritage projects in the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) National Awards 2021.

This year’s 54 winners were drawn from the 2020 shortlist for the Riba Regional, Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland, Royal Society of Ulster Architects and Royal Society of Architects in Wales Awards, all of which were postponed due to the pandemic.

Among the museum and heritage projects to be recognised are the groundbreaking Paper Store at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford and the refurbishment of Aberdeen Art Gallery.

Tintagel Castle Footbridge in Cornwall and Windermere Jetty Museum in the Lake District also made the list, and have gone on to be nominated for Riba's most prestigious architecture award, the Stirling Prize 2021.

Below are all of the museum, gallery and heritage projects that received national awards. 


Aberdeen Art Gallery 

A view of the gallery interior with black columns and white ceiling
© Dapple Photography

By Hoskins Architects

The four-year, £34.6m redevelopment of Aberdeen Art Gallery included new exhibition and education spaces, a renewal of servicing and environmental control systems, as well as improved art handling, storage, back-of-house and study facilities. 

Riba says: “The design, detailing and materials used respect and repair the existing to create a new and vibrant art gallery that must now be one of the very best in the country.”


Imperial War Museums Paper Store, Duxford

Exterior view of the building © Richard Ash

By Architype

The archive building at the Imperial War Museum, Duxford, is a landmark in environmental sustainability. Clad in weathered steel, the facility is designed to the Passivhaus standard, which allows it to maintain a stable temperature with extremely low energy use.

It has been billed as the “most airtight building in the world”. The archive preserves artworks, photographs, letters and diaries documenting warfare since 1914.

Riba says: “By challenging the brief, the architects and client have achieved an archival facility that creates both an emotional response and represents a blueprint for sustainable performance that could demonstrate significant savings in carbon in future designs.”


MK Gallery, Milton Keynes

6a Architects

By 6a Architects

The extension of the MK Gallery in Milton Keynes was unveiled to the public in March 2019, just after the 50th anniversary of the postwar new town. The new gallery building and reworked space reflect and build on the original ideas, vision, and aesthetics of the town planners.

Riba says: “This is a challenging project that has been beautifully crafted. A high level of research, interrogation, collaboration and consultation from an enthusiastic team has delivered a building and facility that remains true to the ethos of the original masterplan and aesthetic.”

Royal Academy of Art, London

© Simon Menges

By David Chipperfield Architects

A complex project to connect the Royal Academy of Art building on Piccadilly to the neighbouring 6 Burlington Gardens via a new link bridge, as well as refurbishing key spaces and opening up previously closed-off areas.

Riba says: “From the initial masterplan approach to the minutest nosing details, and from sympathetic conservation to the judicious insertion of crisp new elements, the architect’s attention to detail and subtlety of interventions is an exemplar for the refurbishment and repurposing of historic buildings.”

The Story of Gardening, Somerset

© Simon Menges

By Stonewood Design with Mark Thomas Architects plus Henry Fagan Engineering

Three designers worked together on this new museum and experience centre, which started out as two separate but concurrent developments: a winding treetop walkway and a subterranean exhibition space in a concrete bunker. The museum includes an exhibition gallery, visitor reception, refreshments and a gift shop.

Riba says: “There is very little fuss with this piece of architecture, which bears the signs of a mature hand, from a relatively young practice.” 

Tintagel Castle Footbridge, Cornwall 

© David Levene

By Ney & Partners and William Matthews Associates

This footbridge spanning the dramatic cliffs of the 13th-century English Heritage site presented a complex technological challenge. The stainless steel structure, which is paved in slate, allows contemporary visitors to retrace the steps of predecessors who would have walked across this section of the castle to gain entry to the grand hall.

Riba says: “This is much more than a bridge. It is a connector, an enabler, an interpreter and a spectacle all within its own right.”

Winchester Cathedral South Transept Exhibition Spaces 

© Peter Cook

By Nick Cox Architects with Metaphor Metaphor

This project saw the creation of new exhibition spaces with an impressive view over the main body of the church, as well as the installation of the first lift in a medieval cathedral in the UK.  The new gallery displays the Winchester Bible, England's largest surviving 12-century bible.

Riba says: “This project encompasses a series of simple and elegant interventions into a nationally important and historic building. The outcome enables better engagement with the cathedral, improved understanding of its heritage and better accessibility for all.”

Walmer Castle and Gardens Learning Centre, Kent

© Brotherton Lock

By Adam Richards Architects

This project repurposed a small collection of existing buildings in the grounds of the Tudor castle into an educational space and café.

Riba says: “This compact scheme achieves a big task of providing a comfortable and engaging space for education for all kind of users and age groups through the architect’s careful and considerate multi-function design features.”

Windermere Jetty Museum, Cumbria 

The wet dock at Windermere Jetty Museum © Christian Richters

By Carmody Groarke

Located on the eastern shore of Lake Windermere, the building, which includes climate controlled galleries, workshop rooms and an operational wet dock, has become a distinctive cultural landmark in the Lake District since it opened in March 2019. Its interlinked, shed-like buildings are clad in dark, oxidised copper that will weather with time.

Riba says: “The panel recognises this as an outstanding scheme. The unique setting demanded a scheme with a clear vision and of the highest quality. The resulting building has been handled with sensitivity and deftness. It has a restrained and simple beauty that is boldly confident in its design and delivery.”

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