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Last edited 08 Jun 2020
Merano by RSHP recognised in RIBA Awards
|Merano. Image courtesy of Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.|
RSHP’s mixed-use development Merano, won an RIBA National Award in July 2019. The prestigious awards are given annually to buildings across the UK that are recognised as contributing in a significant way to architecture.
Designed for developer St James, Merano is located on the Albert Embankment on London’s River Thames, opposite Tate Britain and within sight of the Houses of Parliament; it offers a high quality, mixed-use development, including apartments, offices and a café. The three stepped bays that make up the building contrast with the existing monotonous ‘wall’ of dilapidated developments that occupy this area.
At the base of the building, a four-storey public space offers access through to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens via Tinworth Street and to a café at ground floor level. The height of this public space echoes that of the neighbouring Rose pub, a local landmark and part of the Albert Embankment conservation area. The design has a strong visual presence along the riverfront and acts as a gateway to east Lambeth as well as a natural gathering space overlooking Albert Embankment Gardens.
The east-west orientation of the site dictated the layout of the apartments. By placing the vertical circulation core in the centre of the eastern elevation, bedrooms and winter gardens can be placed either side of it to benefit from morning sunlight, while living spaces on the western side of the building can enjoy views of the river and sunsets in the evening. The different uses of space within the building are arranged vertically: commercial office spaces occupy the three floors above the café and public piazza, while 46 dwellings (a mix of private and affordable units) take up the upper levels.
The structure of the building is a simple concrete frame with steel bracing used to provide stability. This allows for the east and west façades to be primarily glass, creating a lightweight, transparent envelope, and enables open and flexible floor plates. Balconies and winter gardens are formed from a lightweight steel structure with colour applied to the soffits and flank walls to brighten the exterior, in contrast to the building’s monochromatic surroundings.
The RIBA said of the winning project: “The project delivers the client’s vision of a mixed-use development of the highest architectural quality. With its rigorous attention to detail and honest approach to the structure and materials, it is a fantastic representation of the culmination of the practice’s work and has a distinct visual presence along Albert Embankment.”
Graham Stirk, Senior Design Partner at RSHP explained: “Merano was conceived as a series of individual apartment buildings of varying heights that are grouped together and clearly expressed within a single structure. The result is not a monolithic building but a tower which is rich and fragmentary on the skyline. This grand stepping sequence allows the building to mediate in scale from the conservation area in the south and the taller buildings to the north.”
“Merano is the result of an extraordinary collaboration between client, architect and consultants, and is exemplary of a lot of aspects of our architecture," said Stephen Light, Partner, at RSHP. "It’s got an expressed structure, which is practical, providing flexible floorplates for the flats within. The precast frame and steel balconies were manufactured offsite to the highest quality and delivered in a ‘just in time’ formula to ease construction on this restricted site. It also delivers a new public space at the base of the building, reflecting the scale of the Rose pub and signalling a new gateway to Vauxhall Pleasure Gardens. This new, covered public realm has created a home to a café and civic artwork, as well as the opportunity to revitalise future commercial space under the arches of the railway. We have created a strong and active visual presence along the riverfront while acting as a gateway to east Lambeth."
 About Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners
Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners is an international architectural practice based in London. Over the past four decades, RSHP has attracted critical acclaim and awards with built projects across Europe, the Americas, Asia and Australia.
The practice is experienced in designing a wide range of building types including office, residential, transport, education, culture, leisure, retail, civic and healthcare. The quality of its designs has been recognised with some of architecture’s highest awards, including two RIBA Stirling Prizes, one in 2006 for Terminal 4 Madrid Barajas Airport and the other in 2009 for Maggie’s West London Centre.
The firm was founded as the Richard Rogers Partnership in 1977 but over time evolved and in 2007 the decision was made to rename the firm Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners to reflect the vital contributions of Graham Stirk, designer of the award-winning Leadenhall Building, and Ivan Harbour, designer of the Stirling prize-winning West London Maggie’s Centre. The practice now has 13 partners, with several long-standing members of the practice being named partners in 2015. Together, they represent the inherent continuity and consistency of the philosophy which the practice applies to all its work.
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