Zaha Hadid’s Evelyn Grace Academy in London Wins RIBA Stirling Prize 2011 for Best Building of the Year

The Evelyn Grace Academy, a new secondary school in Brixton, south London by Zaha Hadid Architects, won the £20,000 (approximately $30,000 USD) Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) Stirling Prize 2011 for the best new European building built or designed in the United Kingdom. This is the second year running that Zaha Hadid Architects has won the RIBA Stirling Prize; last year the firm won for its MAXXI Museum of 21st Century Art in Rome.

According to the announcement, the Evelyn Grace Academy is a “highly stylized zig-zag of steel and glass that is squeezed onto the tightest of urban sites (1.4 hectares – the average secondary school is 8/9 hectares).” The architects received a complex brief: four schools under a single academy umbrella with the need to express both independence and unity. With such a small space and with sport being one of the Academy’s ‘special subjects,’ the architects needed to be highly inventive.

To meet these requirements, architects inserted a 100-meter running track into the heart of the site, taking pupils right up to the front door. The announcement says “the RIBA Stirling Prize judges noted this is a design that literally makes kids run to get into school in the morning.”

The Evelyn Grace Academy is the first school to win the RIBA Stirling Prize, with seven schools shortlisted in previous years. It is Zaha Hadid Architects’ first school design and first large-scale project in the U.K. The firm previously designed a Maggie’s Centre in Scotland and more recently they completed the Riverside Museum in Glasgow and the London Aquatics Centre for the 2012 Olympics.

“The Evelyn Grace Academy is an exceptional example of what can be achieved when we invest carefully in a well-designed new school building,” says RIBA president Angela Brady, chair of the judges. “The result–a highly imaginative, exciting Academy that shows the students, staff and local residents that they are valued–is what every school should and could be.”

“It is very significant that our first project in London is the Evelyn Grace. Schools are among the first examples of architecture that everyone experiences and have a profound impact on all children as they grow up,” says Zaha Hadid. “I am delighted that the Evelyn Grace Academy has been so well received by all its students and staff.”

The award presentation took place at a special ceremony held Saturday, October 1 at the RIBA Stirling Prize-winning (2001) Magna Science Adventure Centre in Rotherham.

All images provided by RIBA.