Nuclear archive building wins architecture award

Fiona Hyslop had high praise for the Nucleus, calling it a terrific example of the standard of architectural creativity in Scotland
Fiona Hyslop had high praise for the Nucleus, calling it a terrific example of the standard of architectural creativity in Scotland

The £20 million nuclear archive in Caithness has won a national architecture prize.

The Nucleus, near Dounreay, houses nuclear records dating to the 1940s and only opened to the public last year.

Last night it won the Royal Incorporation of Architects (RIAS) Andrew Doolan Best Building prize in a ceremony at V&A Dundee.

The triangular building in Wick was designed by Reiach and Hall Architects and is the home of records, plans and photographs from 17 nuclear facilities around the UK.

The award was judged by Professor Gordon Murray, Anna Liu and Murray Kerr.

The judges said: “The Caithness area has perhaps endured the greatest diaspora of any area of Scotland since the Clearances, and the heritage aspect of Nucleus and its potential to assist in both a cultural and economic regeneration of the region cannot be overlooked. As well as a national archive of the UK’s nuclear power industry, it is also the repository of the social history of Caithness. This building has many stories to tell.”

The judges also praised the architect’s ingenuity for drawing on the “landscape” and “allegorical tales” of the area, as well as the social and cultural history involved in the design.

The facility was one of 12 shortlisted for the 2018 Doolan Prize.

Culture, Tourism and External Affairs Secretary Fiona Hyslop, who presented the award alongside Margaret Doolan, said: “Good design in our built environment is a key mechanism for supporting our economic success, taking forward our environmental objectives, contributing to our cultural continuity and promoting healthy lifestyles.”

She said that the award “helps to raise our aspirations at home and boost our reputation for design quality around the world.

“This year’s winning project, Nucleus, shows great inventiveness in enhancing its local area, and is another terrific example of the standard of architectural creativity here in Scotland”.

A gold medal cast by James Brent Ward and a cheque for £25,000 were presented to the winner.

The centre in Wick was funded by the Nuclear Decommissioning Authority.

It employs around 20 staff.

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