The Stirling Prize-winning building is described as “a ground-breaking example of how to build a daring bold and highly sustainable large public building in a historic city centre”.

Photo of Liverpool Everyman
Liverpool Everyman: an “exceptional new building”

Philip Vile

Liverpool’s newly rebuilt Everyman Theatre has won the world’s most prestigious award for architecture – the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize – which is awarded to the architects of the building that has made the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year. Since it opened in March, the Everyman has already won the RIBA North West Building of the Year at the regional round in April and won a National Award in June. It has also been named World Architecture News Best Performance Space 2014.

Described by RIBA president Stephen Hodder as an “exceptional new building”, the new Everyman was designed by architecture firm Haworth Tompkins, who incorporated what the Theatre has described as “new incarnations of its hallmark features”. These include a curved auditorium built from 25,000 reclaimed bricks, a basement bistro, a large studio dedicated to participatory work and a Writers’ Room, placing artists at the heart of the building. Access for disabled people and environmental sustainability were also of the highest priority in the plans. Hodder said: “It is a ground-breaking example of how to build a daring bold and highly sustainable large public building in a historic city centre.”

The old theatre, converted from a 19th century chapel, has been described as “one of the most cherished of Liverpool’s cultural assets” but “totally unsuited for productions and audiences in the 21st century”. Taking on the challenge of building a new purpose-built theatre on the site of the original was considered to be “a brave but key move by the client team”. The architectural press has been glowing about the new design, saying: “The frustrations of the old venue were numerous but it was loved. Haworth Tompkins’ design resolves the failings while preserving the productive idiosyncrasies: a theatre that the Everyman’s loyal audience is still surely going to recognise as theirs.” More than 4,500 people came through the doors on the first day and 30,000 more have visited since the theatre opened. Visitors have called the building “shiny and new and yet comfortingly familiar at the same time” and commented that there is “just enough of the old theatre to make it feel like home but with so many wonderful new additions”. RIBA said: “The selection and use of materials has created an exceptionally tactile building. This is a building that will age gracefully.”

The Everyman fought off competition from five other shortlisted buildings to win the honour, including an extension to the Manchester School of Art and the Library of Birmingham, which includes the new performance space for Birmingham Rep. Contenders outside the arts were the London Bridge Tower, known as The Shard, the London Aquatics Centre and a student centre at the London School of Economics.

Liz Hill