Best building accolade at RIBA South West Awards for pie factory that ‘surprises and delights’

A pie factory built in a disused quarry near Wells has been named Building of the Year in the region’s top architectural awards.

The 85,000 sq ft factory, pictured above, at Dulcote for independent food brand Charlie Bigham’s gained the coveted title at the Royal Institute of British Architecture (RIBA) South West Awards.

Charlie Bigham’s, which produces 12.5m dishes every year in its distinctive wooden trays, bought the 20-acre site two years after running out of space at its factory in London.

It commissioned fast-emerging London architects Feilden Fowles to design a remarkable new home for its handmade meals, which was built by TSJ Projects. 

The first the 85,000 sq ft phase of the Bigham’s West Kitchen campus opened last year, and already employs 210 people making some of the brand’s most popular dishes such as Fish Pie, Chicken Tikka and Cottage Pie.

Judges for the RIBA South West Awards said: “The requirements of the brief might have been met in a very simple shed; this building demonstrates the added value (at modest added cost) that client ambition and architectural ingenuity can bring to even the most prosaic brief – as a statement of intent for an employer new to the area, whose brand is bound up with quality, the building is an excellent advocate.  

“It exemplifies architecture’s purpose to surprise and delight in addition to fulfilling functional requirements.”

Company founder Charlie Bigham added: “From the outset, we were adamant we didn’t want a factory – we wanted a very big kitchen.  Our food is all handmade, and everything we do is about quality, not compromise. 

“That’s carried through to the design of our new West Kitchen. We’re very chuffed that the project has won such high architectural acclaim.  It’s a real testament to the great work of our architects Feilden Fowles and builders TSJ Projects.”

Feilden Fowles director Edmund Fowles said the award recognised the uniqueness of the project in trying to ‘humanise’ the typical tin shed industrial park and reflected Charlie Bingham’s vision that to make great food requires a happy team. 

“Staff wellbeing therefore drove the design, breaking down the scale, maximising connections back to the dramatic quarry landscape, bringing natural light deep into the plan from its saw tooth roof and placing great emphasis on the collective, social spaces, forming a generous rooftop terrace and cafeteria at the centre of the building,” he added.

“Any great project begins with a good client and we have enjoyed working closely with Charlie and his team to realise their vision for what a contemporary food production campus can be.”

There was success also for the Brunel Building at Bristol’s Southmead Hospital and Challender Court, a social housing scheme in Henbury, Bristol – winning the Client of the Year and Sustainability awards respectively – while London and Bath practice James Grayley Architects’ extension and refurbishment of a Duncan Cottage, a Grade II listed villa in Bath, pictured, which won Small Project of the Year. 

London and Cheltenham practice Archio scooped Project Architect of the Year for Temple Gardens, a housing scheme in Temple Cloud, Somerset, built around a Grade II-listed pub.

Duncan Cottage extends and reorganises the house to create living accommodation appropriate to 21st century living while respecting the importance and character of the original historic house.

RIBA said the Brunel Building at Southmead Hospital, designed by the Bristol office of BDP architects for North Bristol NHS Trust, was “an outstanding response to the North Bristol NHS Trust’s brief to deliver an exceptionally sustainable healthcare facility, delivering long term environmental, social and financial benefits for patients, visitors, staff and the local community”.

“This vast and highly complex building is a testament to the client’s vision and the architect’s skill in interpreting this to deliver a hospital which serves all its users so well,” RIBA added. 

This month marks four years since the official opening of the Brunel Building. The two-week operation involved transferring 540 patients from the old Southmead and Frenchay sites into the new 800-bed hospital with staff, volunteers, ambulance service and military going the extra mile to ensure patient safety was maintained. 

The Brunel Building has since won a number of other important awards including Best Large Hospital 2017 in the European Healthcare Awards, and a Civic Trust award for its contribution to the city and the community, whilst it has also achieved BREEAM Excellent accreditation.

The judges’ citation on Challender Court, designed by Bristol architects Emmett Russell, said it “demonstrates a creative response to the UK’s housing crisis, making excellent use of a constrained, brownfield Bristol City Council site to provide eight one bed apartments which respond to a brief to be robust, low maintenance and low energy.

“Challender Court provides an excellent reference for the sensitive redevelopment of brownfield sites; whilst so much of the industry effort is focussed on large scale development, this scheme demonstrates that an intelligent ‘boutique‘ approach has the potential to unlock even the most unpromising sites, to provide attractive, robust and sustainable homes.”

The Temple Gardens site was scrubland behind on the pub on the busy A37. The owners saw the potential to develop the site around the pub to secure its long-term future, allow for its renovation and regenerate the wider village. Nine homes and a building housing overnight rooms for the pub were developed.

Other winners were London-based 6a Architects (South West Conservation Award) for their transformation an early 20th century house in South Devon, Jamie Fobert Architects, also based in London, for the extension of the Tate St Ives gallery (RIBA South West Award), and Brixham-based Stan Bolt Architect for single-storey extension to a 1920s granite cottage on a hillside above Sennen Cove, Cornwall (RIBA South West Award).

Jo Wright, chair of the South West jury, said: “Submissions for the 2018 RIBA Awards in the South West encompassed a huge range of scales and typologies, from single rooms to vast and complex buildings.

“The winners are differentiated by their quality and creativity, which grows out of client ambition, architectural excellence and great delivery teams.”

All regional award winners will be considered for the RIBA National Awards, with the successful recipients announced in June. Those collecting national awards will then be considered for the RIBA Stirling Prize.

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