The RIBA Client of the Year award is an annual prize the Royal Institute of British Architects presents to clients for architectural projects built in the UK. The 2018 award goes to Argent, a British real estate developer that has financed important architectural projects.
The company has been operating on the real estate market since 1981 and is responsible for some of the country’s most important residential, educational and cultural projects; initiatives of key importance for the regeneration and rebirth of cities of primary importance, such as the Brindleyplace project in Birmingham, considered the biggest urban regeneration project ever in its day. Begun in 1993, the project concerned the vast area of canals for various different uses named after Brindley Place, home to Birmingham’s biggest factories in the days of the city’s industrial glory. When production declined, the factories gradually emptied out, and by the '70s all the buildings on the site had been abandoned. Argent is also responsible for two major urban regeneration projects in Manchester, the St Peter's Square project implemented between 2010 and 2017, and the Northern Quarter, the city’s centre of alternative and bohemian culture.
The jury of the RIBA Client of the Year 2018 award presented the prize to Argent after examining some important projects the British real estate developer has commissioned recently, such as the transformation of King's Cross in London into a contemporary district with contributions from numerous world-famous architects and restoration of the area’s great industrial heritage.
The project permitted redevelopment of existing buildings and construction of new ones in the area, including Morris+Company’s R7, Wilkinson Eyre’s Gasholders, Bell Phillips Architects’ Gasholder Park and Stanton Williams’ Victoria Hall.
Morris+Company built the R7 office building with unusual façades covered with aluminium panels in the colours of the nineteenth-century brick buildings characterising this part of the city.
Wilkinson Eyre renewed three round Victorian gasholders and converted them into residential complexes containing 145 apartments with community leisure facilities (a gym, wellness centre, screening room, etc.). Each apartment is accessible from the central courtyard, letting daylight into the interiors.
Bell Philips Architects converted a fourth cast iron gas holder into a park. The cast iron structure on the outside surrounds a circular steel pergola; in the middle is a circular green area for relaxation and for hosting cultural events.
Images courtesy of RIBA, photo by: Jack Hobhouse, Nick Hufton, Peter Landers, John Sturrock