The National Museum of Scotland by Gareth Hoskins Architects © Andrew Lee

At a ceremony in the Scottish Parliament last night, The National Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh by Gareth Hoskins Architects Ltd has been awarded the RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award 2011. From a shortlist of 13 projects the judges selected The National Museum of Scotland as a clear winner. The award was presented by the Cabinet Secretary for Culture and External Affairs, Ms Fiona Hyslop MSP with Mrs Margaret Doolan Hon FRIAS (the late Andrew Doolan’s mother).

Ms Hyslop, commented;

“Scotland has an international reputation for creativity and innovation, enhanced by the outstanding quality of Scottish architecture. This excellence is demonstrated by the record number of schemes shortlisted for this year’s RIAS Doolan Award, which inspires ever-higher standards of design by celebrating and recognising the very best of architecture in Scotland. The transformation of the National Museum of Scotland is truly breathtaking, making this project a worthy winner of the Award."

The judges citation for the winning building highlights the ‘big moves’ of opening up new street level entrances, excavating the previous basement store as new gallery spaces and the ingenuity of the building’s new circulation which draws visitors up and through its superbly restored spaces.

The winner of this year’s RIAS Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award receives a specially commissioned gold lined silver tumbler by internationally renowned Scottish Jeweller, James Brent Ward and a cheque for £25,000. This makes it the richest architectural prize in the UK and one of the most significant awards in Europe. The award is generously supported by the late Andrew Doolan’s family and by the Scottish Government.

The full judges citation for the winning project reads:

“Prior to its refurbishment the Museum, opened in 1866, had been adapted and extended through the decades. Accretions, partitions and obstructions compromised the building and the enjoyment of its nationally important collections. The completion of the second phase of the masterplan has expanded the gallery spaces, restored much of the original architect’s intent and significantly improved access and visitor facilities.
The big moves are the opening up of the façade to create new accessible street level entrances, the excavation of the existing basement stores area to form a new entrance hall with shop and café and new staircases and lifts to the refurbished “grand gallery”.
Further opening up of previously partitioned-off routes, new escalators and the reclamation of long vistas draws visitors up and around the dramatic upper galleries. The original spatial quality of the building has been brilliantly recovered with a skilful play of light and movement through its spaces. All this is achieved with such subtlety that even some expert critics have failed to fully comprehend the care which has gone into its execution. This transformed museum now fully merits its national epithet. This sensitive and intelligent adaptation enhances both the building and the objects displayed within it.”

The building was selected from a strong shortlist which represented a comprehensive range of building types. The judges felt that seven projects merit a Special Mention. These are:

10 Pearce Street, Govan
Austin-Smith:Lord LLP

Richard Gibson Architects

Hillcrest Housing Association HQ
Nicoll Russell Studios

Hillhead Primary School
jmarchitects Ltd.

The Houl
Simon Winstanley Architects

Linlithgow Burgh Halls
Malcolm Fraser Architects

Phoenix Flowers
7N Architects

The other shortlisted projects were:

The Brochs of Coigach
SBA Architects Ltd

Centre for the Scottish War Blinded
PagePark Architects

Dundee House
Reiach and Hall Architects

Glentress Peel Visitor Centre
Gaia Architects

University of Edinburgh Business School
LDN Architects

This year’s judges were Professor Andrew MacMillan OBE FRIAS (Chair), Sholto Humphries PRIAS and Barcelona based international architect David Mackay Hon FRIAS.

Professor Andy MacMillan OBE FRIAS, who chaired the judging, commented;

“Every year the submissions for this award demonstrate the superb architectural skills we are blessed with in Scotland. This shortlist was full of subtle, intelligent, beautiful buildings which their users love. That is what it should be all about.”

David Mackay Hon FRIAS said;

“I am not surprised, but I am delighted that Scotland’s architects continue to produce such excellent work. This has always been one of my favourite countries. The quality of its buildings has a big part to play in that. Scotland has a responsibility to nurture this talent.”

Sholto Humphries, President of the RIAS, commented that;

“The Doolan Award is named in recognition of an inspired Scottish architect/entrepreneur. Andy Doolan was determined that this should be the largest architectural prize in the UK, recognising the superb quality of Scottish projects which he felt was being overlooked by other awards. Once again this year Andy’s faith in Scottish architectural creativity is borne out in the brilliant range of shortlisted projects from Lerwick to Castle Douglas and many places in between. These are buildings full of delight and fun which will serve their communities well and for a long time to come.”

Visit the Doolan Awards for more information.