The Eye

One of the Most Celebrated Buildings in the U.K. Is a Highway Rest Stop

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Paul Miller/Percy Dean

One of the best buildings in the U.K. is a highway rest stop, according to the Royal Institute of British Architects, which announced Thursday its shortlist of 46 buildings in line for the prestigious RIBA Stirling Prize this October.

The RIBA–award-winning Gloucester Services is a “motorway service area” designed by Glenn Howells Architects.

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Paul Miller/Percy Dean

“Motorway services are not supposed to be architecturally meritorious,” RIBA said in a project description, calling the Cotswolds rest stop a “building that reinvents and reinvigorates the type” and “whose challenges to convention has set a new benchmark.”

The organization said that whereas the first motorway services buildings dating to the late 1950s were “an homage to motor travel,” the Gloucester Services building is “a very deliberate refuge from motor travel.”

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Paul Miller/Percy Dean

The building isn’t an example of showy architecture but for its understatement and sensitivity to the landscape and the light visual impact of its footprint despite providing all the usual dining, shopping, and fuel services that motorists need in a pit stop.

The architects said in a project description that the main facilities were embedded into the site’s undulating hills in order “to protect the immediate environment and avoid impinging on long-distance views,” adding that its profile is “softened by its organic form and grassland covering.”

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Paul Miller/Percy Dean

They designed an interior that is notably absent of branding or visual clutter, one that “reinterprets the rural vernacular in a contemporary manner,” they said. “Cotswold stone and local timbers create a peaceful retreat from motorway journeys, an experience enhanced by a landscaping scheme that includes picnic areas and an ‘edible garden.’ ”

Said RIBA: “To break the mould of the stock gas-station design is a triumph in itself.”

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Paul Miller/Percy Dean