Winner — Snell Associates - Water activities centre, Whitlingham park

The judges described this £1.6m scheme, which adds water sports facilities to a country park on the edge of the Norfolk Broads, as “exquisite”. The judges liked the fact that the centre was a genuine community project that fitted perfectly into its setting. As the architect puts it, the centre’s cabins are designed to “float above the ground while nestling within the sloping banks surrounding it”. Each cabin is conceived as a self-contained and self-sufficient unit, prefabricated from glulam beams and clad in marine-grade plywood. The roof you can see in the picture below is made of fabric and resembles a bird resting with outstretched wings. So, as you can see, it really is exquisite.

The finalists

Anshen/Dyer - Wellcome biocentre, Manchester

This building forms a key element in Manchester University’s science strategy. The aim is to bring together and synthesise the disciplines that each hold in the bioscience puzzle, from physics, engineering, mathematics and computer sciences. Anshen/Dyer’s achievement has been to give this aim architectural form by way of open laboratories, wittily specified in “typical” Manchester materials.

Gateshead council - Gateshead international stadium

This sports academy is intended to train athletes from the across the region. It includes an indoor spring track, throwing and jumping areas, pitches, a fitness room as well as sports science and education areas. The stadium will have multiple benefits for the community, from training coaches and sports scientists to raising the general health of the community and continuing Gateshead’s proud tradition of sporting excellence.

GNNSJ Construction - The Nishkam centre

The aim of this Sikh community centre, modestly enough, was to “create a source inspiration by becoming a beacon for urban regeneration across the country”. The result is a volunteer-built community centre for the people of Handsworth in Birmingham that includes exhibition space, training rooms and a fitness suite. It’s become an instant success with its community, and a long-lasting tribute to the vision of its founders.

Oldham council - Oldham library

This £13m PFI lifelong learning centre is the second building in Oldham’s nascent cultural quarter. The design by Pringle Richards Sharratt makes the most of the views across the moor, and incorporates a sedum roof and a “blade of light” – a north-south light that reflects the sky and extends along the entire building.

SKM Anthony Hunt - The Core, Eden project

Restormel council, which did the building control for this superb centre, put the case well in its testimonial to this entry. “Once again the client has received an outstanding building, designed, developed and constructed with specific sustainability targets … regarded by many as the eighth wonder of the modern world.”