Historic Suffolk site is home to an architectural winner

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Historic Suffolk site is home to an architectural winner

The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced the winners of the 2022 RIBA National Awards for architecture.

And among them is a viewing tower at the Anglo-Saxon Royal Burial Site at Sutton Hoo in Suffolk.

The awards, which have been presented since 1966, recognise the UK’s best new buildings and provide an insight into the UK’s latest design and economic trends.

They range from the modernisation of a traditional village pub in North Yorkshire to an impressive family house built on the shores of a lake in Northern Ireland, and from a net-zero carbon office building sitting above the new Crossrail line in the City of London to the UK’s first secondary school to achieve Passivhaus eco status, showcasing the extraordinary breadth and brilliance of UK architecture today.

The tower at Sutton Hoo was commissioned by the National Trust, who detected a lack in visitors’ ability to appreciate and comprehend this deeply significant historical landscape.

The picturesque, 255-acre estate, with far-reaching views over the River Deben, is home to one of the greatest archaeological discoveries of all time, the ship burial of an Anglo-Saxon king and his treasured possessions.

Nissen Richards Studio used architectural design and interpretive and conservation expertise to develop a narrative walk from site entrance through to the burial mounds, as well as a bold viewing tower.

For the first time, it is now possible to see the mounds from above, as well as across to Felixstowe and Woodbridge, marking the course of the River Deben.

The tower is built using local skills in the region, employing a rich palette of steel panels and steel frame, with a beautiful grain achieved through the galvanising process, overclad with a charred larch boarding rainscreen.

RIBA president, Simon Allford, said: “At a time when we need to bring people together and plan for a sustainable future, this year’s RIBA National Award-winning buildings offer much hope.

“This is a powerful collection of buildings that show, despite the economic, political and social turmoil of the last few years, how great architecture can emerge even in challenging conditions.

“As we start to settle from the pandemic, I am particularly encouraged by the number and quality of new buildings designed to foster community.

“From local cultural hubs to reinvigorated accessible arts venues, these projects demonstrate the power of good architecture to lift spirits and enhance lives.”

Photo: Gareth Gardner