Award number 16 for Lyric

The Lyric Theatre Belfast has won two further awards for architectural excellence bringing the total tally of trophies in its opening year to an impressive 16.

The Belfast theatre won an award from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) and an award for Best Cultural Building at the Irish Architecture Awards.

The theatre was one of just four buildings from Northern Ireland to win the RIBA accolade and means it could be shortlisted for the much-coveted RIBA Stirling Prize for best building of the year, competing with the new Olympics stadium inLondon.

In May, the landmark new theatre won the Liam McCormick prize for the “Building of the Year” at the Royal Society of Ulster Architects’ (RSUA) Design Awards 2012, which enabled it to be shortlisted for the RIBA award.

Designed by Dublin-based architects O’Donnell and Tuomey, the £18.1m theatre just celebrated its first anniversary in the new building on the banks of the River Lagan and has quickly become a treasured feature of the Belfast cityscape.

John Tuomey, Director and Professor of Architectural Design at University College Dublin commented on the RIBA awards: “The RIBA awards mean a lot to architects because the judges visit every shortlisted building. The award is for how well the building works and how well it is built. The award reflects functional and material reality rather than photographic representation and it confers the approval of your peers.”

The other RIBA awards in Northern Irelandare a small house extension in South Belfast, a beautiful house in the Glens of Antrim, and the new Public Record Office in the Titanic Quarter of Belfast.

The four buildings will go forward with 55 other RIBA award-winners in the UK and Europe for the chance to be shortlisted for the Stirling Prize.

The RIBA judges’ citation described the theatre as “a striking and much-anticipated new home for a theatre with a unique status in Belfast”.

They added: “The long-anticipated completion of the Lyric Theatre has been more than worthwhile. 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.”

There were 120 entries to the Irish Architecture Awards, with 34 projects short-listed.

Michelle Fagan, President of the RIAI, said: “The buildings that have been recognised through the Architecture Awards prove that architecture can deliver something that is not only functional and beautiful but also add real value. This is why the role of an architect is so crucial to every single building project.”

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 winning both these architectural awards.”

Noírín McKinney, Director of Arts Development at the Arts Council, sent congratulations to the Lyric: “It’s fantastic to see that just a year after the new theatre opened, the Lyric is being recognised as a fantastic new venue,” she said. “These awards are a fitting tribute to the Lyric architects whose vision and hard work have made it the landmark building it has quickly become.”

The theatre’s latest production, Oscar Wilde’s The Importance of Being Earnest is receiving great reviews and runs until 7 July, including weekend matinees and this Wednesday 27 June.  

Lyric Awards tally in opening year:

  • RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Award
  • Best Cultural Building Award at the Royal Institute of the Architects of Ireland (RIAI)
  • ‘Outstanding Contribution to Tourism Award’ from the Northern Ireland Tourism Awards
  • The Lyric Theatre competed with international projects to win a Civic Trust Award in Edinburgh earlier this year
  • Two Irish Times Theatre Awards: Best Director Conall Morrison and Best Supporting Actress Aoife Duffin for The Crucible
  • As well as Building of the Year at the RSUA awards, the Lyric won in the £2.5m Buildings Category and the Department of the Environment Planning Award
  • The Brick Awards: Supreme Winner Award, Best Public Building and Specialist Brickwork Contractor of the Year
  • Irish Concrete Society Awards: Overall Winner Award and Building Category Award
  • Cultural Diversity Award at the Theatre Awards UK for the ‘Pat & Plain’ project
  • Best Belfast Brand Award at the Aisling Awards, November 2011