Here's a look at the Sainsbury Laboratory, which just snagged the Royal Institute of British Architects' annual award for the year's most notable "anti icon": the Stirling Prize. Designed by London-based firm Stanton Williams, the 118,400-square-foot limestone-and-concrete building, positioned on an edge of the Cambridge University Botanic Garden, represents "the past and future of plant science," architect Alan Stanton explained at the ceremony this weekend. Inside are a bunch of glass-fronted research labs with views of a courtyard, an herbarium, meeting rooms, a cafe, and one long, uninterrupted hallway inspired by Darwin's "thinking path"—where the famed biologist and botanist took his morning and afternoon constitutionals—allowing researchers and staff to sit and gather in informal, impromptu settings.
However you break it down, this was a surprise win, given the overwhelming opinion that either the Lyric Theatre Belfast or London's Olympic Stadium were destined for glory. Yet despite the "audible intake of breath" when Sainsbury was announced, as The Guardian architecture critic Oliver Wainright described it, the choice is not even a fraction as controversial as last year's Zaha Hadid brouhaha. In fact, Wainright argues, "Stanton Williams has recast what might once have been an anonymous prefab shed, housing a functional stack of labs and pipes, into nothing short of a temple to botany" and "has reinvented this difficult typology, an achievement that could have an important influence beyond this one building." That's not to say there aren't sore losers, of course; in fact, the director of The Hepworth Gallery, another nominee, wrote the following on his blog: "It isn't a building that excites me at all from the photographs I've seen, but of course I reserve full judgement until I do, if I ever do get access."
Head to Dezeen for a look inside.