Sunday, 14 October 2012

Stirling Prize Winner 2012! Architecture in the Botanic Garden, Part One. The Garden Café.

Coffee, cake and modernism

The brand new Sainsbury Laboratory in the Botanic Garden of Cambridge has just won the 2012 Stirling Prize for making the greatest contribution to British architecture this year.

The building's Garden Café is open to the public.  I went to visit it last week.  I love exciting modern architecture.  And I especially love architecture that enhances its environment.  I think all new buildings should be more beautiful than what they replace, whether that be nature or older buildings.

stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams

The laboratory is embedded in the greenery of the Botanic Gardens.  You can't see them from here but the roof is covered in photovoltaic panels.  The building generates 10% of its energy via solar power.

stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams


stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams

stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams



Crisp clean lines and modernist geometry against a blue-and-white autumn sky:  what a great combination.  The materials you see are concrete and stone (the concrete poured in situ, the stone quarried in Metz in France).

stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams

stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams

The initial design aimed to hide the architecture among the vegetation and not to overwhelm the gardens.  But the director of the Botanic Garden said no, he wanted a bold statement to say: This is the future of the Botanic Garden!

stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams


stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams


stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams






stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams

The queue was long on the day I was there.  The café is three times as popular now compared to when it was housed in the old wooden hut some of us fondly remember. I know why:  it is glorious!

stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams

These flamingos etched into metal are part of a mural by Norman Ackroyd who is one of the artists who worked on the building.  Ackroyd visited Galapagos in the footsteps of Charles Darwin (whose mentor founded the Botanic Garden in the 19th century).

stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams

Pale wood, flagstones and sprays of delicate vegetation.


stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams

You can also sit inside and look out through the back windows at the interior courtyard.  The other wings of the building are part of the laboratory.  Olive trees grow in orderly lines among gravel and flagstones.

stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams


stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams

Here are water sculptures by William Pye.  An underground water fountain bubbles up under a circular glass lid.  Apparently, ducks are mistaking these for ponds and keep wanting to go swimming.

stirling prize 2012, sainsbury laboratory, stanton williams

Click on the image below to see a youtube clip of the water sculpture in action:


Or see it here:  http://youtu.be/_n26PchOifI

I learned some of the above details from the architect Alan Stanton himself who came to give a talk here last week.

Coming up next:  Architecture in the Botanic Garden, Part Two! My summary of the architect's talk on this fascinating building plus pictures of the normally inaccessible interior of the Sainsbury Lab!

Now up:  Architecture in the Botanic Garden, Part 2:  The Sainsbury Laboratory.  

What:  Sainsbury Laboratory (University of Cambridge) and Garden Café.  Architects:  Stanton Williams.  Finished in 2011.
Where:  Botanic Garden.  The laboratory's address is Bateman Street.

This feature was posted in response to popular demand for 'some architecture'!  Little did I dream that my very first architecture post would turn out to be the Stirling Prize Winner!  I'm so happy, though:  well-deserved!

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