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Published On: Sat, Dec 18th, 2021 at 2:44pm

Aberdeen Art Gallery wins architecture prize

The Royal Incorporation of Architects in Scotland (RIAS) announced that Aberdeen Art Gallery – designed by Hoskins Architects – is the winner of the 2021 Andrew Doolan Best Building in Scotland Award.

Aberdeen Art Gallery underwent a landmark redevelopment project between 2015 and 2019, supported by Aberdeen City Council and the National Lottery Heritage Fund. This is the latest accolade for Aberdeen Art Gallery which was a joint winner of Art Fund Museum of the Year 2020 and a recipient of a 2021 National Award from the Royal Institute of British Architects.

Using a strategy of careful repair and confident addition, Hoskins Architects have refurbished and extended a fine existing building. The result is a civic space fit for today’s visitors – one is which is now more welcoming, more sustainable, and more accessible. The redevelopment demonstrates how contemporary architecture, historic building conservation and environmental responsibility can go hand in hand.

The special character and grandeur of the 19th century category A listed building has been preserved, and a dramatic copper-clad roof is among a series of striking contemporary interventions that have revitalised the gallery and its relationship with the city.

The architects have subtly and sensitively restored original features of the 19th century building and improved fabric performance, alongside confident alteration and the bold addition of new elements that enhance the visitor experience, knitting together a thread of careful conservation and the requirements of a world class, 21st century gallery. They created new exhibition and education spaces, thoroughly upgraded the building’s services and environmental performance, and improved the gallery’s art handling, storage, back of house and study facilities.

The annual Doolan Award is assessed by an expert jury who look at each project’s architectural integrity, usability and context, delivery and execution, and sustainability. All types of building are eligible for the award, which is named in memory of its founder and patron, the architect/developer Andy Doolan, who died in 2004.

The architects of the winning building receive a £10,000 cash prize, making the Doolan Award one of the most significant architecture awards in the world. The award would not exist without Andy Doolan’s extraordinary generosity and vision, and his family have kindly continued their support. The Scottish Government also generously supports the award.

Councillor Marie Boulton, Aberdeen City Council’s culture spokesperson said: “On behalf of the citizens of Aberdeen I’m incredibly proud that Aberdeen Art Gallery has been named as Scotland’s building of the year. The redevelopment project has completely re-imagined and revitalised one of the city’s most important buildings. It has created a welcoming, accessible, safe and inspiring space for all of us to enjoy, whether we live in Aberdeen or we’re visiting the city. I hope that news of this important award will encourage people who may not have visited for some time to re-discover the Art Gallery, or to visit it for the first time and experience for themselves this spectacular building and the outstanding collection it’s home to.”

Caroline Clark, National Lottery Heritage Fund Director for Scotland, said: “It’s wonderful news that the transformation of Aberdeen Art Gallery, which was supported by National Lottery players, has won this highly prestigious architectural award. It is a well-deserved endorsement of this ambitious project which reimagined and reinvented the Gallery’s historic buildings to revitalise this major cultural attraction.”

Speaking on behalf of the Doolan family, Andrew Doolan’s nephew Ross Findlay said: “Before her passing in 2020, Andrew’s mother Margaret Doolan held her son’s legacy and achievements in high esteem. She took great pleasure in continuing his vision and support of the RIAS. As such, our family is proud to help to promote Scottish architecture at home and abroad and celebrate the creativity, innovation and ingenuity this breeds – exactly the vision that Andrew had when he set out his plans for this award over 20 years ago.

“This year presented a very competitive list of finalists so we are happy to congratulate Hoskins Architects and the Aberdeen Art Gallery on their deserving win.

“Having sponsored this event since 2004, we have seen the award go to many different buildings designed for different purposes and it is great to celebrate a civic building being given a new lease of life that will serve the public for future generations – a very fitting project for the intended ethos of the award.”

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