2021’s contenders for the Riba new architecture award range from a mesmerising Cambridge masjid to flats a London council wanted bulldozed

A mesmerising wooden mosque in Cambridge will go head to head with a Cornish footbridge and a cluster of black boatsheds in the Lake District, in this year’s battle for the UK’s best new building. Joining them in the race for the 2021 Riba Stirling prize are a new student centre for Kingston University, a key worker housing development in Cambridge, and a controversial stone apartment block in London which was almost demolished by the local council.

The mosque is the list’s photogenic stunner, and the most likely to snatch the gong. Designed by Marks Barfield, architects of the London Eye ferris wheel, it applies hi-tech rigour to the creation of a beguiling glade of worship. A grid of tall tree-like columns branch outwards, weaving into a filigree structural canopy that undulates above the prayer hall, echoing the form of gothic stone vaults, and filtering daylight from circular openings above. Featuring Cambridge Gault clay brickwork, patterned with decorative Arabic Kufic inscriptions, and ablution facilities worthy of a luxury spa, the £23m building is a compelling fusion of local and Islamic traditions, creating a powerful prototype for what a modern British mosque might be.

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