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Sustainability and site sensitivity define this year's RIBA Stirling Prize Winner

Last night the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) unveiled the 2018 RIBA Stirling Prize winner as the Bloomberg building, designed by Foster + Partners. This vast London office building brings Lord Foster and his team their third Stirling Prize win – uncontestedly the most prestigious architecture prize in the UK,.

As the new European headquarters for Bloomberg, the building has been credited as the world’s most sustainable office, and is said to be the largest stone building in the City of London since St Paul’s Cathedral. Its gracefully slatted facade sits elegantly behind the City of London Magistrates' Court. Bloomberg is comprised of two buildings connected by a bridge, each sitting either side of a new public arcade, which re-establishes an ancient Roman road. This complex scheme also incorporates new access to Bank Underground station, cafes and restaurants, and a museum displaying the Roman Temple of Mithras, which was discovered on the site sixty years ago.

View from Mansion House Street. Image by James Newton

The building is huge – a whole city block's worth of space, but the client's vision for was for it to be "a good neighbour", and so its been designed sensitively, giving priority to public space and visual harmony. The design incorporates three new public spaces, which open-up the area of the city in which Bloomberg is sited.

The Bloomberg entrance on Queen Victoria Street. Image by Nigel Young, Foster + Partners

The Bloomberg Arcade viewed from Cannon Street. Image by Nigel Young, Foster + Partners

Internally, visual drama steadily builds, beginning with an entrance ‘Vortex’ – a double-height art work formed from three curved timber shells. High-speed lifts then carry users to the sixth floor ‘Pantry’ – a large concourse and café space with views across the City, framing the iconic dome of St Paul's Cathedral. A 210m-high, winding, bronze ‘ramp’ descends to link the office floors below, offering users opportunities to meet and converse between their tasks.

Bloomberg interior, the vortex. Image by Nigel Young, Foster + Partners

Bloomberg, double-height Pantry overlooking St Paul's Cathedral. Image by James Newton

Workspaces are clustered within a wide open-plan scheme, adhering to the client's desire to redefine the spatial conventions of office architecture. "‘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," said Michael R. Bloomberg, Founder of Bloomberg L.P. and Bloomberg Philanthropies. Each workplace floor includes multi-function ceilings fitted with 2.5 million polished aluminium ‘petals’ to regulate acoustics, temperature and light, creating a uniquely holistic user-centric environment for work.

Bloomberg interior, triple helix ramp. Image by James Newton

Bloomberg claims to be the most sustainable office building in the world, designed to use 73 per cent less water and 35 per cent less than a standard office building. It was given a 98.5 per cent score by BREEAM (Building Research Establishment Environmental Assessment Method). If it does do everything it says on the box, Bloomberg really is pushing the bar of integrated sustainability far above what it has reached hitherto.

But this building's sustainability extends beyond its energy footprint and penetrates the increasingly elusive realm of visual sustainability. In a city as architecturally diverse as London, paying visual respect to urban context is something that many contemporary architects have got wrong. Not this time. Last year's winner was all about architecture that works seamlessly with the long-awaited wants and needs of a community. This year's winner shows us what we should want as we move forward, and what we absolutely need.


For more on Foster + Partners' 2018 RIBA Stirling Winning building, Bloomberg, visit the RIBA website.

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