Extension of museum campus in Suffolk praised for coupling contemporary needs and heritage preservation

RIBA has named ZMMA’s extension to the Gainsborough House Museum in Suffolk as its building of the year in the East region for 2024.

The London-based architect and exhibition designer’s three-storey building in Sudbury provides a new entrance and gallery space to display the larger works of 18th century painter Thomas Gainsborough and other artists.

The scheme also restored a series of grade II-listed cottages on the museum campus to provide a shop, printing studio and cafe.

Judges said the project “stands as a model for harmonising heritage preservation with contemporary needs and showcases creative repair and conservation, adaptive reuse of historic structures, and comprehensive refurbishment and regeneration efforts.”

Eight other schemes have been handed regional awards including the WongAvery Gallery, a performance space at Trinity Hall, Cambridge by Níall McLaughlin Architects, which was shortlisted for the second year running.

Feilden Fowles’ dining Hall at Homerton College, Cambridge was also recognised alongside Allies & Morrison’s John Bradfield Court and Pollard Thomas Edwards’ Beechwood Village.

SKArchitects’ Bluebird, a renovated terrace of properties for people experiencing homelessness, was named winner of Client of the Year and of the Sustainability Award.

Fergus Knox of Knox Bhavan picked up the Porject Architect of the Year Award for the Little Big House, a new-build home noted for its energy efficiency and its adaptations for a client with specific physical needs.

ZMMA’s Gainsborough House Museum also won the Conservation Award to add to its Building of the Year gong.

RIBA East jury chair, Gavin Henderson said: “The diverse range of projects recognised by the awards demonstrates the value that architects, working with ambitious and far-sighted clients, bring to schemes across the region.

“These are projects that pay close attention to enhancing the experience and wellbeing of the people using the buildings, and to creating characterful, sustainable places of lasting value. 

“At very different scales, whether an individual home or supporting a larger community, they demonstrate the role architecture can play in transforming lives, and illustrate that good design can, in a very real sense, be life-enhancing.”

RIBA East Award winners will now be considered for a RIBA National Award, which will be announced on 11 July. 

The shortlist for the RIBA Stirling Prize for the best building of the year will be drawn from the RIBA National Award-winning projects later in the year.