The Lyric Theatre Belfast has impressed a panel of architects to win a hat-trick of awards at the Royal Society of Ulster Architects' (RSUA) Design Awards.
The landmark new theatre won the Liam McCormick prize for the “Building of the Year” at the 2012 Design Awards, completing a string of accolades for the £18.1m theatre which marks its first anniversary this month.
Designed by Dublin-based architects O'Donnell + Tuomey, the Lyric Theatre was on a shortlist of six buildings selected from over 50 entries representing commercial, residential and conservation projects in Northern Ireland.
“The long-anticipated completion of the Lyric Theatre has been more than worth it,” said the judging panel citation. “The quality of the interior spaces, its sensitive response to a challenging site and the expansion of the Lyric's ability to function literally behind the scenes make this a stunning accomplishment and a pleasure to spend time in.”
The Lyric also won the Department of the Environment award for sensitive planning and was one of two buildings to win in the over £2.5m construction category.
The awards were presented at a gala ceremony in the new Titanic Belfast tonight (17 May) and represent a first step on the way to winning an RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) award.
The RSUA awards promote excellence in architectural design in Northern Ireland and aim to create awareness of the importance of high quality architecture in our cities, towns and rural areas. Design excellence includes the way in which schemes relate to their natural and built environment.
Ciarán McAuley, Lyric Chief Executive, said winning the top accolade was yet another reason to celebrate the theatre's first birthday.
"It has been a fantastic opening year for the Lyric,” he said. “We are delighted to receive so many awards and such praise locally and internationally. We are pleased that the RSUA have recognised this new gem in Belfast's landscape. It can only raise the profile of the theatre and attract people to come and see what goes on in our building and on our stage."
The Lyric's Chairman, Mark Carruthers, said: "We always said we wanted our new home to be a landmark building which would be both beautiful and practical. We were faced with all kinds of challenges during the design and construction stages, but despite everything our site threw at us, our architects, O'Donnell and Tuomey, and our builders, Gilbert Ash, have created a stunning modern building which has wowed everyone who's visited it during its first year. It's been a huge team effort all round and everyone in the Lyric family can now share in the success of these important RSUA awards. On behalf of the Lyric I want to thank everyone who's been involved in the project - no matter how big or how small that involvement has been - for helping to make the theatre such a great success."
The Lyric Theatre competed with international projects to win a Civic Trust Award in Edinburgh earlier this year and just last month was described by the Daily Telegraph's architecture critic Ellis Woodman as one of the “best British buildings built this century”.
On 1 May last year, the £18.1 million theatre opened its doors on the site of the old Lyric on Ridgeway Street. The new building signaled the continued regeneration of Belfast and the development of arts infrastructure for artists and audiences alike.
Over the past 12 months, the Lyric has won at The Brick Awards (Supreme Winner Award, Best Public Building and Specialist Brickwork Contractor of the Year) and Irish Concrete Society Awards (Overall Winner Award and Building Category Award).
However, it's not just the building that has been praised. The opening production on the Northern Bank Stage, Arthur Miller's The Crucible, won two Irish Times Theatre Awards out of an unprecedented six nominations. Conall Morrison won Best Director while Aoife Duffin won Best Supporting Actress for her role as Abigail Williams at the prestigious event in Dublin in February.
The first original new play on Northern Bank Stage, the comedy-thriller The Civilisation Game, is currently running throughout the anniversary month until 26 May. Written and directed by Tim Loane, creator of the hit Channel 4 series Teachers, it stars Eugene O'Hare (Waking The Dead), Alan McKee (Grimes & McKee) and Allie Ford (Give My Head Peace).