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World Architecture Festival awards celebrate Oxford
'The Yard' Gallery at Modern Art Oxford
The new entrance and street frontage for Modern Art Oxford is up for an award

Two buildings in Oxford have been shortlisted for a prestigious World Architecture Festival award.

The Ashmolean Museum expansion scheme and 'The Yard' Gallery at Modern Art Oxford will compete in the world's biggest architecture contest.

The shortlist of 236 includes Soccer City National Stadium in South Africa, a bamboo house in Costa Rica and The Apple Store in New York.

The Festival takes place in Barcelona in November.

'Unique'

Jurors at the 2010 festival will be casting their eyes over the new entrance and street frontage for Modern Art Oxford's 'The Yard' Gallery.

The project took five months, with work completed in March.
Alex de Rijke, Director at dRMM Architects, explained the process to BBC Oxford.

"Previously the access was up some steps off a back street. dRMM proposed to improve on those conditions but also to transform the way it was organised by making a new entrance on a busier street.

"So what we did was transform a delivery yard into a new kind of gallery venue. It's unique in the UK in that it offers a different kind of gallery space.

"We decided quite deliberately not to have a facade on this. All it has is a roller shutter that has been painted by the artist Richard Woods as a special kind of disappearing veil.

"By the day it's completely open to the street. It's quite deliberately non-architecture in that sense.

"It's seen as the kind of thing that Oxford doesn't have presently, something that can appeal not just to the cognoscenti but also the passerby and the student... pulling in those who are curious and rewarding them with something to think about."

'Internationally renowned'

The Ashmolean's cascading staircase
The Ashmolean's cascading staircase impressed the judges

Stuart Cade, Associate Partner at Rick Mather Architects, was the Project Architect for the Ashmolean Museum Expansion.

He was brought on board to deal with issues of limited space and deteriorating conditions at the museum.

An impressive new six storey structure was planned to replace the rundown Victorian blocks behind the Grade 1 listed Cockerell building.

Stuart Cade summed up why he thought the expansion had had such a big impact.

"It was such a big surprise. The site is entirely landlocked so the comprehension that a building was being built there was not necessarily evident to the people of Oxford.

"When it opened there was this amazing surprise that this new building had been inserted in a space that people didn't realise was there. That's part of the appeal and it seems to have also had quite popular appeal."

Constructing a contemporary building in the heart of historic Oxford posed a challenge, but the team had a clear brief.

"The director was keen that it was a modern building, he didn't want a pastiche.

"We were very keen to create a clean new building but at the same time a blank canvas for the collection which is internationally renowned and had to be the focus of the redisplay.

"The design is deliberately quite neutral in order that the collection shines out and that connections are made between different galleries. You're always able to see between the gallery you're in and the gallery you might want to go to next."

The new Ashmolean sits amongst an elite list of buildings on the shortlist, and Stuart Cade is an admirer of several of them.

"The Maxxi in Rome is the one that really sings out, although there's also The Medieval & Renaissance Galleries at the Victoria & Albert Museum which are a really nice set of galleries."

These buildings and many more will go head to head in front of a live public delegation and a jury of internationally celebrated architects at the Centre Convencions International Barcelona (CCIB) from 3 to 5 November.

Paul Finch, the programme director, said: "We are very pleased to have received over 500 entries from 61 different countries.

"It is also encouraging for the industry to see a great deal of entries from 'new' economies, both by local architects and international practices.

"We look forward to welcoming over 1000 delegates to Barcelona in November."

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Claire Price speaks to Dr Christopher Brown (Director, Ashmolean Museum) and Sara Dewsbury (Modern Art Oxford)




SEE ALSO
In pictures: Nominated buildings
03 Aug 10 |  People & Places
Awards celebrate Oxford buildings
04 Aug 10 |  People & Places
Stories from the Ashmolean Museum
04 Nov 09 |  Arts & Culture


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