Stephen Hodder is the inaugural Stirling Prize laureate (1996) and a former RIBA President (2013–2015). He graduated from the University of Manchester in 1982. Stephen left the design business where he was working a year later to establish his practice. In 1992, he started Hodder Associates, which he still runs today. The Centenary Building, at the University of Salford, in northwest England, earned the very first inaugural Stirling award in 1996. The prize was known as the RIBA Building of the Year Award before being renamed after architect James Stirling, Because the Stirling Prize is considered one of the most prestigious architecture prizes in the UK, there are a few prerequisites that must be met to be shortlisted and win. Shortlisted structures should have high architectural standards and contribute significantly to the local environment. The architects must be members of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA). The structure must be located in the United Kingdom and must have made the biggest contribution to architectural progress in the previous year. As a result, it will be the most visible architectural award in British culture.
Hodder and Partners had just completed refurbishment work for the University College, Salford (UCS) when they were handed the commission for the centennial building. The client’s initial brief was to design a structure that would host the Faculty of Art and Design Technology. However, the brief shifted during the construction stage due to institutional mergers (the University of Salford and University College, Salford) and departmental reshuffles, resulting in the selected materials that were used in the project. Hodder had 11 weeks to finish the design stage and begin development on-site to ensure the EU grant was eligible. The four-story centenary building was completed in December 1995 and opened to the public in 1996. It’s a straightforward plan that consists of a central corridor that splits the building’s architectural programming on either side. It is accessible via common areas and three service towers that facilitate movement between developed spaces such as studios, seminar rooms, stairwells, offices, and so on.
The teaching rooms and technology suites are in a three-story free-form block with a freshly defined courtyard. The connection between the two blocks is an elevated roadway with galleries that contain all horizontal movement. As a result, the street activity becomes a part of the building’s life; common areas, adjoining offices, and studios interact with the street, energizing the structure and giving it a feeling of purpose. The structure’s shape was inspired by the desire to create a clear representation of the brief. The internal architectural program is a response to the building’s context, which rests on the edge of the city and academic campus. The model creates a college courtyard for an existing university building in diagrammatic form.
Even though the project had to be completed swiftly and on a tight budget, materials such as glass block screens, stainless steel cladding, and concrete cross-wall frame construction were utilized. The natural light that filters through the glass facade of the central atrium provides the majority of the illumination in the structure. Seminar rooms, video-editing suites, lecture halls, and other open, internally built spaces are among the areas allocated within the centenary building. Users are “on display” in glass-fronted workplaces and instructional spaces. The notion of the glass-fronted rooms within the structure is arguable unless they are insulated because when one considers the building’s usability, the numerous motions and noises are likely to be a distraction when courses are in session.
The building’s apparent linear form has two principal faces: a glazed and open façade facing the courtyard (car park) and a closed façade with stainless steel cladding and glass blocks facing the city. Internally, the common atrium area was designed to encourage user engagement and exchange. Even though this has not always been the case, students tend to come here primarily to use the facilities and not to socialize. The materials and shapes indicate that this is an urban construction, and the commercially-oriented language might be a subliminal reference to the UK’s shifting higher education market. Although it was finished a little over two decades ago, the structure is far from outdated and can compete with modern institutional projects.
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- Fran Williams (4 AUGUST 2021). Discover the AJBL: First Stirling Prize-winner University of Salford by Hodder + Partners, 1995. [online]. Available at: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/buildings/discover-the-ajbl-first-stirling-prize-winner-university-of-salford-by-hodder-partners-1995 [Accessed 15 June 2022].
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- Richard Waite (31 AUGUST 2018). First Stirling Prize winner could become primary school. [online]. Available at: https://www.architectsjournal.co.uk/news/first-stirling-prize-winner-could-become-primary-school [Accessed date: 17/June/2022].
- Centenary Building | Case Studies, Mainstream Modern. [online]. Available at: http://www.mainstreammodern.co.uk/CaseStudies.aspx/Detail/83/centenary-building [Accessed date: 17/June/2022].