Best British Buildings - the lead up to Stirling

When myself and a colleague presented at last week's Birmingham Heritage Open Days Fair, I started to think that I might have bitten off slightly more than I could chew...

© Nick Hufton - The Portland Collection, RIBA East Midlands Award-winner and Building of the Year 2016

The night before had seen our Regional Awards event in the East Midlands - the highlight in our architectural calendar and the result of months' of work in the first phase of the RIBA Awards process, which culminates with the Stirling Prize later in the year. For all ten RIBA regional offices, the focus (for the first part of the year at least), is on getting Awards entries in, shortlisting and jury visits to determine which buildings (and Architects) will receive a RIBA Regional Award 

Building visits are carefully coordinated with Clients and Architects, so that Regional Jury panels and RIBA colleagues can criss-cross counties and regions to make sure that all shortlisted projects are visited in the minimum number of days (and miles). We also deliver ten RIBA Regional Awards events, including the presentations of the Awards themselves, and the attendant administration, marketing and PR in the lead up - with every detail managed by small regional teams. The last of these events took place at the Stirling-shortlisted University of Greenwich Stockwell Street Building earlier this week in London; the first took place at St John's College, Cambridge in East Region in the middle of April.  So, it's something of a marathon...

And the result? Of 215 shortlisted buildings, in 2016 there have been 120 RIBA Regional Award-winners in England and Wales - all demonstrating the highest calibre of UK architecture. Of those that have won a Regional Award, some will go on to win a highly-coveted RIBA National Award and, in turn, perhaps even make it onto the Stirling shortlist. One thing is certain: one RIBA Regional Award winning-building will win the Stirling Prize in 2016. Of course there are winners and losers and the obvious disappointment of not receiving an Award on the night. What I experienced at our Awards evening last week at Nottingham Contemporary though, and something that I'm sure is true for colleagues across the country, was a real sense of celebration - of the built environment and of the truly inspirational architecture that our regions have to offer. Which brings me back to my earlier trepidation...

After a fairly late night and a very concentrated period of work on the Awards (see above), it's safe to say that I could have been better prepared for my session on the Love Architecture and Heritage Open Days partnership last Wednesday. But I needn't have worried. In this, our 2nd year of formally partnering with HODs (following a successful pilot in the North East in 2014), what I experienced was a very lively and collaborative session with passionate and incredibly knowledgeable people about the places and buildings they love. The Love Architecture/ HODs partnership is certainly about showcasing fabulous contemporary (and conservation) architecture, including those buildings recognised by our Awards programme, but it's also about celebrating the rich architectural heritage and history of older buildings - both of which combine to create a greater sense of place and community, which is surely what Heritage Open Days is all about.