One of the York Handmade Brick Company’s most acclaimed projects has won the prestigious 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize.
York Handmade, based at Alne, near Easingwold, in North Yorkshire, provided more than 300,000 bricks for the magnificent new Magdalene College Library at Cambridge University.
The library beat five other projects to triumph in this year’s Stirling Prize, the highest accolade in architecture. It is awarded for the UK’s best new building of the past 12 months.
The contract was worth £300,000 for York Handmade, one of the leading independent brickmakers in the UK.
The prize-winning architects for the new library at Magdalene College were London-based Niall McLaughlin.
David Armitage, chairman of York Handmade, commented: “It is a tremendous honour to have played a pivotal role in creating a building which has won the Stirling Prize. There is no more significant or coveted prize in the architectural world.
“We were so proud when we were asked to provide our bricks for such a prestigious project. Magdalene has a rich cultural heritage and this stunning new building reflects this.
“The finished building is absolutely magnificent and provides a wonderful place for Magdalene students to work. It is one of our flagship projects over the past few years and we are proud of what we have achieved.”
The Stirling Prize judges praised the new library, called it "exquisitely detailed and solid and confident, yet deferential new kid on the college block".
Simon Allford, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), commented that: “It had been a significant challenge to create a building that would last at least 400 years, but that the architects had managed it with "with the utmost skill, care and responsibility.
"Well-designed environments hugely improve student success and wellbeing. They should be the rule for all students and teachers in all places of learning, not the exception."
Meanwhile Magdalene College's librarian, Dr Marcus Waithe, said the architects had been given an "unusually challenging brief: to erect a building at the edge of one of Cambridge's most historically sensitive sites, and to do so without committing an intrusion."
York Handmade was selected primarily for the colour and the character of its brick, but also because of the company’s ability to manufacture a wide range of intricate specials and sizes to fit in with the design specified by the architect.
David explained: “We supplied no less than 40 different sized or special-shaped bricks for this scheme and the quality of the brickwork is outstanding. We must pay tribute to the contractor and especially Julian Redpath, who is the site manager for Cocksedge Building Contractors Ltd.
Tim Allen-Booth, associate with architects Niall McLaughlin, explained: “Our design for the new library was for a bold, modern building, while also having a settled quality that fits with the mediaeval character of the original college buildings. The character of the new brickwork is central to this aim.
“We chose York Handmade’s bricks for their texture, range of colours and ability to produce the range of special shapes and sizes required. The colour mix was developed in close collaboration with York Handmade’s team. The end result echoes the tapestry-like quality of the college’s mediaeval walls and is a key part of both the interior and exterior of the new building.
“We greatly enjoyed our collaboration with York Handmade on this project, both in the quality of the finished bricks and the design development process. We hope to work with them again in the future.”
David added: “This commission continues our strong relationship with colleges and university buildings at Oxford and Cambridge. We have provided bricks for Christchurch College in Oxford, as well as Oxford’s Said Business School, and Jesus College, Cambridge.
“It is an immense privilege to be associated with such important buildings and projects in historic and sensitive environments. It is also testament to the renaissance of brick as the building material of choice for significant and prestigious developments.”