Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre

RIBA National Award for the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre

21 June 2018

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced that the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre at Worcester College is one of the 49 winners of the prestigious 2018 RIBA National Awards for architecture.

The judges’ report said: ’The setting for this building is unbeatable. It is beside a perfectly mown cricket pitch within the secluded, rambling and idyllic garden of one of Oxford’s most historic colleges. And there’s a lake nearby too.

‘To not only preserve but enhance this context would require a building of assured calm and grace. It would need to use materials with a tactile gravitas and be imbued with a timelessness which would make it feel as if it had always been there and need never leave. The Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre does all this and more.

‘Every space is high-ceilinged and flooded with daylight, every element is designed and crafted to the most exacting tolerances and standards, and every part fits together sweetly from the radial brick pavers to the curved seats and huge oak doors of the auditorium up to the spaces themselves, formally arranged as discrete stone forms around which the forum flows. 

‘The building is classical in spirit, with crisp proscenia and a slender stone stoa marching along the cricket pitch façade. However, it is uncompromisingly modern in style, with smooth planes of stone and glass and minimal detailing. Yet there is nothing alien or mechanistic about it; in fact, it is surprisingly traditional in its craftedness, relying on stonemasons, plasterers and joiners at the very top of their game. It is the natural materials, superbly honed, that ground the building and make it belong. It is the architectural design – the timeless pursuit of ordering space and light and form – that makes it a thing of pure joy.’

Winners of the national award will now be considered for the 2018 RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist, which will be announced on 19 July. The overall winner of the Stirling Prize will be named on 10 October 2018.

The Provost, Sir Jonathan Bate, said: ‘We are honoured that Worcester College’s newest building has received the prestigious National RIBA award for architecture. We are very lucky to have had Niall McLaughlin Architects, craftspeople and a gardening team led by Simon Bagnall, who had the vision to create this inviting, exquisite space to be used by students, staff and visitors alike. Many have remarked already that they regard the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre as one of the most beautiful modern buildings in Oxford, and the RIBA judges seem to agree.’

The Centre has already received both the RIBA South Award 2018 and RIBA South Building of the Year 2018, as well as an award from the Oxford Preservation Trust in its New Buildings category.