Winner of 2014 Stirling Prize: Pipping Renzo Piano, Zaha Hadid and O’Donnell + Tuomey to the post the Everyman Theatre is more than a shallow vanity project
The Stirling Prize for Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre is a recognition that architectural quality is far more than just slick commissioning of a vanity image. This is a project that Adolf Loos would have praised. It arose from deep continuities within Liverpool’s theatrical community and prolonged commitment by both client and architect. Not cheap, yet it assigned its investments in commodity, materiality and space with a modesty and prudence that stemmed from what one must truly and properly call ‘culture’ - that is, a shared understanding of values among the public audience, the client and designer.
It began with their love of the old Everyman theatre - from its popular presence in Liverpool life right through to the detailed shape and scale of its stage and auditorium, and worked through to an accomplished translation of those qualities into a building which combines multiple memories - from bricks and basement bistro to seating and stage-forms - with a comprehensive theatrical machine for the 21stC: mechanical and digital facilities, rehearsal capacities and youth wing, and ability to turn any part of the public side into another performance space. And all this conveyed in spatial, tectonic and representational aspects with an underspoken suavity and urbanity that rejoins its Georgian neighbours along Hope Street and recalls Liverpool’s great days as the classical yet practical city that prompted the attention of Schinkel and admiration of Colin Rowe.
Not only does this prize vindicate the hopes vested in Liverpool’s 2008 year as ‘City of Culture’, it gives hope that the organizers of the Stirling Prize will set their sights deeper and further than surfaces and ‘icons’, orienting it comprehensively on the culture of cities.