Lyric versus Olympic stadium in battle for Stirling prize

As the greatest show on earth gets underway this week in London, the Lyric Theatre in Belfast has just been announced as a contender against the Olympics Stadium for the most coveted prize in British architecture.

The Lyric Theatre Belfast is one of just six buildings across the UK to be shortlisted for the prestigious Stirling Prize which has never been won in Northern Ireland.

The new theatre on the banks of the River Lagan, on the site of the old Lyric building, has won a string of architectural awards since it opened in May last year, but the Stirling Prize is the Gold Medal of architecture.

The Stirling Prize is presented each year by RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects, after a panel of judges has considered the merits of significant new buildings throughout the European Union which have “made the greatest contribution to British architecture”. Previous winners include ‘the Gherkin’ in London, the Scottish parliament building and the Gateshead Millennium Bridge.

As well as the Olympics stadium, the Lyric is up against a cancer centre in Glasgow, a City bank office, a Cambridge laboratory and an art gallery inYorkshire.

The Lyric theatre was one of just four buildings from Northern Ireland to win the RIBA accolade in June and these went forward with 55 other RIBA winners in the UK and Europe for the chance to be shortlisted for the Stirling Prize.

Designed by Dublin-based architects O’Donnell and Tuomey, the £18.1m theatre has quickly become a treasured feature of the Belfast cityscape.

John Tuomey, Director and Professor of Architectural Design at University College Dublin commenting on the RIBA awards last month said: “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 Lyric Board’s Vice-Chairman, Sid McDowell, commented on the Stirling Prize shortlist: “It will be a tough call to win the Stirling Prize but to have reached this stage is a real tribute to our architects.

“Apart from the RIBA judging team being impressed with the design and the realisation of that design, they were mightily impressed by the relationship between client and design team and contractor, and the extent to which consultation took place with local residents, the arts community and other interests such as those concerned with disability provision. We can all be very pleased with this outcome,” he said.

The Stirling Prize winner will be announced on 13 October.