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Damien Hirst's art gallery wins UK's top architecture prize

The winner of the Royal Institute of Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize, the UK's most prestigious award for architecture, has been announced. Caruso St John Architects got the nod for its Newport Street Gallery project, a free art gallery open to the public that hosts British artist Damien Hirst's private collection.

Now in its 21st year, the RIBA Stirling Prize was presented to Caruso St John Architects in a ceremony in central London last night. Though previously nominated in 2000 and 2006, this was the firm's first win, and it beat strong competition from critic's favorites Herzog & De Meuron and Loyn & Co.

The project involved turning almost an entire street of former industrial buildings in Vauxhall, south London, into an art gallery, including three heritage-protected buildings which formerly served as carpentry and scenery painting workshops for West End theaters. The buildings were heavily remodeled and flanked at either end with two new buildings.

Caruso St John Architects did a remarkable job blending old with new. The new buildings reference the existing Victorian buildings with pale red brick. One of the buildings sports a striking saw-tooth roof and its facade is enlivened by an LED display facing nearby railway tracks that encourages passing commuters to come and pay a visit.

Inside, the five buildings are interconnected into large gallery spaces of varying size, able to host both small private pieces and large shows. Stunning staircases provide access between ground and upper floors.

"With Newport Street Gallery, Damien Hirst has made an exceptional contribution to the UK's strong history of private patronage of architecture," said RIBA President Jane Duncan. "Not only has Damien opened up his enviable private art collection to the world, but he has commissioned a real work of art to house it in.

"Caruso St John has created a stunningly versatile space from a number of linked buildings, with beautifully crafted staircases and superb details including tactile brick facades that blend the street externally and create a succession of wonderful gallery spaces."

This year's Stephen Lawrence Prize winner was also revealed at the same ceremony. It was awarded to House of Trace, by Tsuruta Architects, a stunning extension and remodeling of a terraced house in London that increase both space and natural light for its occupants.



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