Billed as the world’s most sustainable office and praised by the jury as a ‘monumental achievement’, the £1 billion project was unanimously chosen as the winner of the UK’s most prestigious architectural award from a six-strong shortlist.
It is the third time Norman Foster’s practice has taken home the Stirling Prize, the last time in 2004 when it won with 30 St Mary Axe – the Gherkin. No other architect has won the accolade as many times.
But the project, thought to be the largest stone building in the City of London since St Paul’s Cathedral, was not the bookmakers’ favourite. MUMA’s Storey’s Field Centre and Eddington Nursery for the University of Cambridge was the most heavily backed.
Nor was it the pick of the AJ readers, coming last in a recent online poll.
However, the prize judges were wowed by Bloomberg’s ’restrained exterior and dynamic interior’, the ’unprecedented levels of research, innovation and experimentation’ shown during the design process, and the close collaboration between client and architect.
Jury chair David Adjaye said: ’This ground-breaking project demonstrates what is possible through close collaboration between highly skilled, imaginative architects and a deadly sophisticated, civic-minded client. Bloomberg is an astounding commitment to quality architecture.’
RIBA president Ben Derbyshire, added: ‘After vigorous debate, the jury reached a unanimous decision: Bloomberg’s new European HQ is a monumental achievement. The creativity and tenacity of Foster + Partners and the patronage of Bloomberg have not just raised the bar for office design and city planning, but smashed the ceiling.
’This building is a profound expression of confidence in British architecture – and perfectly illustrates why the UK is the profession’s global capital. This role and reputation must be maintained, despite the political uncertainty of Brexit.’
The scheme is in effect two buildings connected by a bridge over a new public arcade, which re-establishes an ancient Roman road.
This project, the successor to the abandoned so-called ‘Darth Vader’s helmet’ development by Foster with Jean Nouvel (see AJ 04.08.09), is a complex scheme which also incorporates new access to Bank Underground station, restaurants and a museum displaying the Roman Temple of Mithras, which was discovered on the site 60 years ago.
Designed with engineers AKTII, the building features a hand-crafted sandstone exterior, built from rock quarried on the Yorkshire/Derbyshire border, and bronze window ‘fin’ details, with built-in air vents.
The jury described the interior as a ’dynamic and highly choreographed’ procession. The entrance includes the Vortex, a double-height artwork formed from three curved timber shells.
There is also a 210m-long bronze ‘ramp’ which, according to the jury panel, is wide ’enough for impromptu conversations without impeding the flow of people’.
Norman Foster said: ‘From our first discussions to the final details of the project, Mike Bloomberg and I had a meeting of minds on every aspect of the project – its sustainable focus, commitment to innovation and drive to create the best workplace for Bloomberg employees. The RIBA Stirling Prize is a testament to the incredible collaborative spirit that has underpinned the entire project from start to finish.’
Client Michael R Bloomberg said: ‘When we embarked on this project, we wanted to create a cutting-edge design that would push the boundaries of what an office building could be, which meant setting new standards for openness and sustainability. At the same time, we wanted to honour London’s history and contribute to its vitality.
‘We knew that if we could achieve both objectives, we’d have a building that would inspire everyone who set foot inside it. This prize indicates that – thanks to the brilliant Norman Foster – we succeeded. And we’re grateful to everyone who worked so hard to bring it to life.’
Foster’s victory meant a third Stirling Prize defeat for Níall McLaughlin, whose practice again missed out, this time with its Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre, in Oxford.
The other finalists were Bushey Cemetery by Waugh Thistleton Architects, the New Tate St Ives by Jamie Fobert Architects with Evans & Shalev, and Chadwick Hall, University of Roehampton by Henley Halebrown.
David Adjaye: ‘Bloomberg is an astounding commitment to quality architecture’
Bloomberg is a once-in-a-generation project which has pushed the boundaries of research and innovation in architecture.
The design brief called for a building which could rise up to the challenge of this loaded site and an information-driven environment. The architect worked exhaustively and collaboratively to design a building which perfectly responds to Bloomberg’s ambitions.
By building at a lower height than approved at planning, reserving parts of the site for public space, and using highly-detailed, hand-crafted materials, Bloomberg shows a high level of generosity towards the City. This is a building of its place. Art has been commissioned as an integral part to enhance people’s experience of the spaces.
The design process involved unprecedented levels of research, innovation and experimentation, with pioneering new details and techniques tested, prototyped – sometimes at 1:1 scale – and rigorously improved.
The real success, though, is in the experience for staff, visitors or passers-by – how Bloomberg has opened up new spaces to sit and breathe in the City; the visceral impact of the rooftop view across to St Paul’s from the concourse space, the energy of descending the helix ramp or settling into a desk in one of the dynamic new workspaces.
This ground-breaking project demonstrates what is possible through close collaboration between highly skilled, imaginative architects and a deadly sophisticated, civic-minded client. Bloomberg is an astounding commitment to quality architecture.