Last night the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) awarded Britain's most prestigious architecture award, the Stirling Prize, to the Everyman Theater in Liverpool, a project by Haworth Tompkins Architects with enough circa-2004 industrial stylishness to beat out projects by Zaha Hadid and Renzo Piano. The building, described by the Guardian as resembling "a redbrick ocean liner," has a large-scale work of public art serving as its façade; there are 105 life-size portraits of contemporary Liverpool residents mounted on moveable metal sunshades above the entrance. Despite the fact that it kind of looks like an H&M subway advertisement (in a cool way?), the $45M theater edged out London's Shard by starchitect Renzo Piano and the Olympic Aquatics Center by swoop savant Zaha Hadid.
According to the theater's artistic director, who spoke to the Guardian, the architects were tasked with creating a building that "shouldn't feel too posh," with the "warmth, earthiness and democratic humanity" of the structure it was replacing. The building was originally an old chapel (the bricks for the new auditorium were recycled from it) and was converted into a theater in the '60s.
"Many people expressed the view that, if we messed this up, we needn't bother coming back to the city," architect Steve Tompkins told the Guardian. He needn't have worried. Turns out, the project was something of a crowd favorite: a Guardian poll showed that 58 percent of voters thought Everyman Theater should win the award. (Renzo Piano's Shard is the only building Idris Elba loves in all of London, though only four percent of respondents felt it should win. Burn.)