February 26, 2024


It’s all well and good to create new buildings imbued with sustainable design, but simply retrofitting what’s already been built is often more environmentally friendly. To underscore this, the prestigious Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has launched a new award to recognize the most innovative reuse of buildings in the UK.

The inaugural RIBA Reinvention Awards shortlist includes four extraordinary renovation projects across the UK, varying in size, budget and purpose. Each improves the lifespan and energy efficiency of existing buildings, reducing the need for demolition and new construction, according to the RIBA.

“As we look to a low-carbon future, it is vital that we always consider how existing buildings can be adapted to better serve new uses,” said RIBA President Simon Allford. “The careful stewardship of existing resources, including buildings, has a long and noble architectural history that, although we have recently forgotten, is rapidly being relearned. These extraordinary projects demonstrate that reinventing buildings requires enormous talent, vision and creativity.”

The winner of the RIBA Reinvention Award will be revealed on 19 October at the Stirling Awards ceremony, which will announce the UK’s best new building. Before that, we will introduce them one by one as follows.

University of Wolverhampton's School of Architecture and the Built Environment designed by Associated Architects in collaboration with Rodney Melville and Partners
University of Wolverhampton’s School of Architecture and the Built Environment designed by Associated Architects in collaboration with Rodney Melville and Partners

David Finchett Photography

Mitchells & Butlers Brewery was once a major employer in Wolverhampton. It closed in 1991, followed by two major fires and the building fell into disrepair. In 2015 it was acquired by the University of Wolverhampton, which commissioned its conversion into a School of Architecture.

The project, now known as the University of Wolverhampton’s School of Architecture and the Built Environment, was refurbished by Associated Architects in collaboration with Rodney Melville and Partners. The firms went to great lengths to respect the building’s historic character, with brass and copper trims for the new areas, giving them an authentic ambience and ensuring they have a place in the old building. A large glazed section was also added to increase daylight inside, which mimics the form of a previously installed tank.

Great Things Lie Ahead in Holborn, Central London, designed by 6a Architects
Great Things Lie Ahead in Holborn, Central London, designed by 6a Architects

john dering

Great Things Lie Ahead in Holborn, Central London, was designed by 6a Architects. The company renovated and expanded the gym and added a new community building.

It was created in collaboration with artist Caragh Thuring and involved demolishing the basement into a concrete structure while turning it on with roof lights above the function hall. The two-storey extension facing the street serves as the entrance and functional spaces. With a focus on budget throughout, it embraces a utilitarian aesthetic that leaves structural supports exposed.

Holden School in Rugby, designed by van Heyningen and Haward Architects
Holden School in Rugby, designed by van Heyningen and Haward Architects

James Britton

Holden School, designed by Van Heyningen and Haward Architects in Rugby, has transformed a former radio station into a modern high school.

The project is part of an emerging residential area on the site of the old radio station. Van Heyningen and Haward Architects painstakingly converted part of three block blocks into a school arranged around a central courtyard. The architects have preserved the unique character of the site on the exterior. Inside, there is a large, light-filled restaurant with decor that pays homage to its past as a radio station.

Home Museum in Hackney, London, designed by Wright & Wright Architects
Home Museum in Hackney, London, designed by Wright & Wright Architects

Hufton + Crowe

The Home Museum is in Hackney, London.The project expands and refurbishes the museum, which occupies the historic poorhouse.

Wright & Wright Architects rearranged the building’s interior, doubling the common areas, increasing exhibit space by 80 percent and performing repairs without a commensurate increase in overall energy consumption. Accessibility has also been improved, with a focus on lushly landscaped gardens outside, while adding a drought-resistant green roof that helps insulate the interior.

source: Royal Institute of British Architects