RIBA Stirling Prize 2022 reveals UK’s best new building | First look

The New Library at Magdalene College by Níall McLaughlin Architects has been awarded this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize 2022. 

One of architecture’s highest accolades, this prestigious prize honours the UK’s best new building and the new library building, part of the University of Cambridge, has become the 26th recipient. 

Replacing the cramped study spaces of the adjacent 17th century Grade II listed Pepys Library, the library creates open yet intimate spaces for students. Níall McLaughlin Architects combined load-bearing brick, gabled pitched roofs, and sustainable design elements to create a modern building with longevity. 

Speaking on behalf of the 2022 RIBA Stirling Prize jury, RIBA president Simon Allford, praised the architecture for being built to last and stated that it is “an exemplary model” for other universities to aspire too. 

“Creating a new building that will last at least 400 years is a significant challenge, but one that Níall McLaughlin Architects has risen to with the utmost skill, care and responsibility. The result – a solid and confident, yet deferential new kid on the college block.”

Completed in early 2021, the building provides the 700-year-old college with space for not just a library but also an archive and an art gallery space too. Time-honoured construction techniques have been used to shape the light-filled, warm wood interiors, with a nod to the city’s historical fabric. The building employs simple but highly effective passive ventilation and natural lighting strategies to minimise energy in use. 

In response to receiving the award, architect Níall McLaughlin said: “The Magdalene College Library is a work of many hands and many minds. The College created the possibility for success in the way that they initiated and managed the project. The appointment of designers, consultants, builders, and craftsmen was treated with care. Throughout the development process, our team was supported and robustly questioned in our decisions.”

“We knew we were building for a client who was motivated to achieve the best outcome. Our responsibility to the history and future development of this learning community was clear. We were asked to build for the long-term using present resources wisely.” 

“This is the first time a college has won the Stirling Prize. It is good to celebrate the contribution these remarkable communities have made to the development of modern architectural culture in Britain.” 

The elegant brickwork façade features a set of four chimneys which ventilate the building

Photography by Nick Kane.

Take a look back at the RIBA Stirling Prize 2022 shortlist to find out more about the five other projects that The New Library at Magdalene College was up against.

Discover more high-quality modern architecture by Níal McLaughlin.

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