Lyric in Olympian Battle for Stirling Prize

THE Lyric Theatre is best known for dramas on-stage but this week the nerves will be off-stage as it awaits the outcome of the judges’ decision for the top prize in architecture – the prestigious Stirling Prize.

The Lyric Theatre Belfast is one of just six buildings across the UK – including London’s Olympic Stadium – to be shortlisted for the RIBA Stirling Prize which has never been won in Northern Ireland. The winner will be announced at a ceremony in Manchester on Saturday 13 October hosted by BBC Radio 4’s Mark Lawson.

The new Lyric Theatre in Belfast is in the running for a major achitectural award.

The prize is to architecture what the Booker Prize is to literature, and a £20,000 cash prize for the winning architects makes it covetable as well as prestigious.

The Stirling Prize is presented each year by RIBA, the Royal Institute of British Architects, after a panel of judges has considered the merits of significant new buildings which have made the greatest contribution to architecture over the past year.

The prize is for projects ‘built or designed in Britain’ and buildings are eligible if they are in the UK or EU. Previous winners include ‘the Gherkin’ in London, the Scottish parliament building and Madrid Barajas Airport in Spain.

The Lyric is certainly up against stiff competition:

–          The Olympic Stadium, London

–          Sainsbury Laboratory, Cambridge

–          The Hepworth Gallery in Wakefield, Yorkshire

–          Maggie’s Centre, a Glasgow cancer hospital

–          New Court, a city of London bank

The architects of the new Lyric Theatre are O’Donnell and Tuomey from Dublin and this is the fourth time they have been shortlisted for the prize. They are hoping to win it this time!

The new £18.1m theatre on the banks of the River Lagan, on the site of the old Lyric building, has won a string of architectural awards since it opened in May last year and has quickly become a treasured feature of the Belfast cityscape.

The Lyric Board’s Vice-Chairman, Sid McDowell, said: “It will be a tough call to win the Stirling Prize but to have reached this stage is a real tribute to our architects.

“Apart from the RIBA judging team being impressed with the design and the realisation of that design, they were mightily impressed by the relationship between client and design team and contractor, and the extent to which consultation took place with local residents, the arts community and other interests such as those concerned with disability provision. We can all be very pleased with this outcome,” he said.

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The Stirling Prize is named after the great British architect James Stirling who died in 1992. Every year the prize is presented to the architects of the building that has made the greatest contribution to the evolution of architecture over the past year. The prize is for projects ‘built or designed in Britain’. Buildings are eligible if they are in the UK or EU, and designed by an architect whose head office is in the UK.

The Lyric Theatre is funded by the Department of Culture, Arts and Leisure, the Arts Council of Northern Ireland and Belfast City Council. Other supporters of the capital project include Northern Bank, Coca-Cola, The Irish News, Ulster Bank, Titanic Quarter and Gilbert-Ash NI.

The Lyric Theatre’s main auditorium is proudly supported by Northern Bank. Housed in the main auditorium of the new theatre, the Northern Bank Stage is at the heart of this iconic landmark building. There are 389 seats in a single tiered rake, allowing audiences to enjoy the same unique sense of intimacy with the actors on stage that was one of the most successful characteristics of the old theatre.