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Expert Comment: Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre wins 2014 RIBA Stirling Prize

Everyman Theatre Tuesday 21 October 2014

As the rebuilt Liverpool Everyman Theatre wins the 2014 RIBA Stirling Prize, Principal Lecturer in Geography Dr Janet Speake looks at the theatre's relationship to the city and its people.

The Liverpool Everyman Theatre has won the 2014 RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Stirling Prize, considered to be one of the world’s most prestigious architectural awards. The new Everyman, designed by Howarth Tompkins, beat the other five short-listed buildings - three in London (the Shard, the London School of Economics’ Saw Swee Hock Student Centre and the London Aquatics Centre), one in Manchester (Manchester School of Art) and the other in Birmingham (Library of Birmingham).

The new Everyman is a welcome addition to Liverpool’s current crop of buildings, including the Central Library, which are making creative contributions to contemporary architecture and gaining critical acclaim. The success of the Everyman in the RIBA Stirling Prize 2014 is also another signal of Liverpool’s re-emergence, after several decades in the doldrums, as a city able to produce and celebrate leading innovative architecture and urban design.

The new Everyman creates spaces for people and performance, centred on its 400-seat auditorium, which have a distinctive sense of place, belonging and inclusivity which encapsulate the innovative, challenging theatre that has been characteristic the Everyman since its inception in 1964. Often focusing on themes of social realism and dissidence conveyed with political bite, the theatre places people and the city firmly at its heart and this concern and connection with community and local place is vividly represented in the new theatre’s design.

The distinctive visual profile of the west façade maintains continuity with the past through a reworking of the iconic red ‘Everyman’ sign. It also highlights the theatre’s direct engagement with the city’s people in an evocative, eye-catching piece of public art. This features 105 life-sized portraits of Liverpool residents, water-cut onto a three-tiered screen of metal moveable sunshades.

Built to the principles of sustainable good practice the building has an excellent sustainability rating, and incorporates the use of sustainable natural ventilation (incorporating four large ventilation stacks) and low energy technical systems. Local red bricks, some reclaimed from the fabric of the former theatre and its predecessor the 19th century Hope Hall chapel, add to the building’s impressive environmental credentials and also provide continuity in the Hope Street cityscape.

Information about studying Geography at Liverpool Hope is available from the department's webpages.

 

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