Posted Thursday 9 February 2023
A major exhibition showcasing the best new architecture from across Europe has opened at Kingston University's multi award-winning Town House, with an exclusive preview event marking the start of a month-long residency. The exhibition of the EU Mies van Der Rohe Award for Contemporary Architecture, which runs at the University until early March, showcases the 40 projects shortlisted for the 2022 award.
The landmark Town House building, at the University's Penrhyn Road campus, is the current holder of the prestigious award – the highest accolade in European architecture. Designed by RIBA Gold Medal-winning Grafton Architects, Town House is only the third building in the United Kingdom to have held the coveted EU Mies van der Rohe Award since its inception and the first in the higher education sector.
Exhibition curator Ivan Blasi described Town House as a location that truly represented architectural excellence. "Our society needs public projects of this quality," Mr Blasi said. "It is like a palazzo – a palace for everybody. It accommodates dance, library and study spaces using layers of silence and layers of sound that work perfectly together."
The exhibition is a representation of the journey undertaken by the judging panel as they visited the buildings on the original long list for the EU Mies van der Rohe Award. "It gathers different voices from the selection process to show how schools, housing and public spaces were being designed in different locations across Europe," Mr Blasi explained. "Visitors can travel from place to place, from building to building, from one cultural context to another, exploring through each step different ways of understanding our time and context."
Video interviews, descriptions of the shortlisted buildings, photographs and models are currently on display on Town House's ground floor. The exhibition also features a summary of all 532 nominees, with visitors encouraged to use the EUmiesaward app to complement the viewing experience.
The exhibition opened in Barcelona last year before travelling to Cologne, Belgrade, Brussels and Vienna. The University's Director of Estates and Sustainability Seán Woulfe said it was an enormous honour for Town House to have been chosen to host the latest leg of its tour. "It will be a unique experience for members of the borough community and wider public to be able to attend the exhibition in the building that is currently the proud holder of the award," he said.
"From the initial design competition drawings and models, it was clear Town House would be a very special building. It's truly inspiring to stand on the landing of the cantilevered staircase between the fourth floor and fifth floor overlooking the colonnade, the atrium and the floors below and see our students, staff and visitors engage with this beautiful building."
Town House opened at the Penrhyn Road campus in 2020, after being conceived as part of a bold vision to create an inspirational new learning space that also acted as a gateway to Kingston University for borough residents and businesses. Boasting a three-floor academic library, archive, dance studios, studio theatre and courtyard, it was named Britain's best new building in 2021 when it carried off the RIBA Stirling Prize.
Vice-Chancellor Professor Steven Spier said Town House was a striking demonstration of the power and impact of great architecture. "Town House is a world-class building that embodies our educational ethos of confronting different ways of thinking and acting in the world, so much so that it serves as a physical manifestation of our ambitions and we have named our new strategy after it," he said. "It is invigorating to witness the creativity, collaboration and shared learning the building's open, inviting space fosters. Our students have embraced Town House, relishing the opportunity to find their place within it and make its many spaces their own."
The exhibition's opening event was attended by a host of dignitaries, including the European Union Ambassador to the United Kingdom Pedro Serrano and Minister for Technology and the Digital Economy Paul Scully MP, along with influential figures from the worlds of education and architecture. They heard from Grafton Architects' co-founders Shelley McNamara and Yvonne Farrell, who travelled from Dublin for the occasion, Professor Spier and representatives from the Fundació Mies van der Rohe before viewing the exhibition and taking part in tours to learn more about the design, build and opening of the flagship building.
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