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Macallan Distillery - Riba Stirling Architecture Prize

The fourth of Jim Stephenson’s Architects’ Journal/Riba Stirling Prize nominee films looks at the Macallan Distillery in Scotland, designed by Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners.

Nestled in the hills near the River Spey, the Macallan Distillery looks a bit like a Bond villain’s lair. On the outside the shape of the undulating 100m long roof resembles the rolling hilly landscape that surrounds the structure. On the inside, high tech industrial equipment, lit dramatically, produces premium whisky, with one bottle in particular costing over £500,000.

Tuning in to the production process using contact microphones, I uncovered a hidden world of sound. The hiss and pressure of the stills and pipes, deep industrial drones and wind ‘playing’ the structure itself.

Photograph by Jim Stephenson

Photograph by Jim Stephenson

Of all the Stirling Prize nominees, this was the richest for the senses. The contrast of the internal industrial sounds and the external natural sounds, the strong, sometimes overpowering smell of whisky, and inside the production area, the stifling heat, made for a challenging, but ultimately rewarding recording and filming environment.

There will be an alternate version to showcase the hidden sounds picked up by contact microphones coming soon.


The Riba Stirling Architecture Prize winner is announced on the 8th of October. Find out more here.

London Bridge Station - Riba Stirling Architecture Prize

The third of Jim Stephenson’s Architects’ Journal/Riba Stirling Prize nominee films looks at London Bridge Station, designed by Grimshaw Architects.

As well as the recognisable sounds of a busy station in a major city, I was able to record the hidden sounds using contact microphones to pick up the deep rumble of the escalator mechanics and the other worldly friction of the escalator handrails, and electromagnetic microphones to uncover the wealth of electronic waves pulsing through the station. These sounds don’t make it in to the main film (apart from the escalator rumble), but an alternative version with these as the focus, is planned.

Photograph by Jim Stephenson

Photograph by Jim Stephenson


The Riba Stirling Architecture Prize winner is announced on the 8th of October. Find out more here.

Goldsmith Street - Riba Stirling Architecture Prize

In the second of Jim Stephenson’s films for The Architects’ Journal, we visit Goldsmith Street in Norwich, the first council housing project to be nominated for a Stirling Prize. UPDATE: I’m really pleased to say that Goldsmith Street won the Riba Stirling Prize, the first council housing project to do so. Proving that well designed, climate friendly social housing is possible. I hope this is the beginning of a shift towards more projects like this.

These environmentally friendly passivhaus-standard terraced houses were designed by Mikhail Riches and Cathy Hawley.

Photographs by Jim Stephenson

The Cork House - Riba Stirling Architecture Prize

The first of Jim Stephenson’s Architects’ Journal/Riba Stirling Prize nominee films explores The Cork House, designed by Matthew Barnett Howland with Dido Milne and Oliver Wilton.

Sometimes you enter a space and struggle to hear any sound that might be worth recording. The Cork House was one such space, the density of the building’s material creating a warm cocoon, shut off from the nearby sounds of Eton and the Heathrow bound aircraft passing every few minutes. These situations require a stillness physically and of the mind, to begin to pick out what is present.

Photograph by Jim Stephenson

Photograph by Jim Stephenson

The beautiful garden offered a rich setting and opportunities for sound recording that provided a contrast with the stillness inside. I also used contact microphones inserted in spaces between the cork bricks to capture the sounds of the cork itself. These creaks and squeaking are used sparingly within the film.


The Riba Stirling Architecture Prize winner is announced on the 8th of October. Find out more here.