The coveted architect's prize has been taken by a practice that has transformed itself from rising star to major player on Britain's architectural stage
This award was open to all UK registered architectural firms of any size. The judges were looking for evidence of success during 2008.
- Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Looking at pictures of this firm's recent projects is akin to staring over the counter in a sweetshop - the vibrant colours and dynamic shapes are a feast for the eyes. So, it is no wonder that its buildings are so popular with their users, or that the firm gets so much repeat work. AHMM has worked on more than 60 projects over the past year, with more than 10 reaching completion. Among them are the Westminster academy, which won more than 15 design awards, the much-talked about regeneration of Chelsea Barracks for Candy & Candy, Sunshine House, a healthcare scheme delivered through the notoriously complicated LIFT procurement method, and the Yellow Building (pictured), the seven-storey headquarters for retailer Monsoon in west London. It also transformed a grade I-listed, disused building into London's largest art gallery - the Saatchi Gallery in Chelsea. It may be a large practice but it prides itself on the fact its staff enjoy being part of it. This is because it has created a lively and supportive office culture through monthly project slideshows, drinks and social events.
- Chapman Taylor
Fifty years ago, this was a newly-born three-person practice. Today, it is a team of more than 500 that operates from 14 offices - which is not bad, considering that its growth was entirely organic. The feature that best defines Chapman Taylor is its internationalism. Its staff speak 37 languages and last year it opened offices in the Ukraine, India and China, and completed 27 projects in 11 countries. It still has a presence in the UK, however, including Cabot Circus, a giant urban regeneration scheme in Bristol. Furthermore, when asked how Chapman Taylor compared with other international firms, 85% of its clients said it was better and 24% said it was the best they had ever worked with.
- Feilden Clegg Bradley
Among Feilden Clegg Bradley's numerous achievements in the past year was its work on technology and social care units in the developing world. So, it used bamboo as a building material at an orphanage in Chennai, India, completed a school in Uganda and a home for Aids orphans in South Africa. At the moment it is building a community sports facility in Ethiopia and a youth health and social centre in Yemen using low-impact, traditional construction techniques. The firm is able to adapt effortlessly to working in unusual environments thanks to its vast experience in UK sectors, from education projects such as Exeter college to urban masterplanning in Leeds and Birmingham.
- Foster + Partners
Arguably the best know architect in the world, Foster has had yet another outstanding year. It has completed some remarkable buildings, and most recently won a competition to design the New York public library and the world's largest, most technologically advanced airport terminal in Beijing. Its combination of civil engineering and architectural talent led to a commission to design Masdar City in Abu Dhabi, the world's first zero-carbon, zero-waste desert community - and one that's already broken ground.
- Jestico + Whiles
Jestico + Whiles has always been proud of the diversity in its workload, ranging from schools to university laboratories, hostels to five-star hotels and single residential developments to the complete regeneration of neighbourhoods. The practice covers new build as well as the refurbishments of historic buildings. Some of its projects are the £24m St Paul's Academy in Greenwich, the luxurious Hotel Ariana in Hvar, Croatia, and the Mountbatten nanotechnology research centre in Southampton. And it is committed to showing that eco-sensitive design can be achieved within traditional budgets.
- Pascall + Watson Architects
A string of high-profile projects, including Heathrow Terminal 5, St Pancras station and Dublin airport won Pascall + Watson its nomination this year. It also managed to keep hold of its entire 210-strong workforce through these adverse economic conditions, which is not something many architects can claim. The secret of its success is repeat work from key clients: more than 80% of its turnover falls into that category. Yet it maintains that its greatest satisfaction was in achieving the ISO 1400 accreditation: this means all its projects are subject to a green design review and incorporate sustainable materials and practices.
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