Since 1996, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has been awarding the architectural equivalent of a Booker Prize for literature to architects of buildings that have made the "greatest contribution to the evolution of architecture over the past year."

The prize, named after noted British architect James Stirling, includes a £20,000 cash award. The shortlist for 2012 was unveiled just a few days ago and the winner will be announced in Manchester on Oct. 13.

This year's list is comprised of six architecturally ambitious buildings: there's the sleek and sustainable London Olympic Stadium; the serene place of healing, Maggie's Centre in Glasgow that creates an architectural medley of juxtapositions; the strikingly detailed Lyric Theatre in Belfast; the New Court Rothschild Bank in London, which is both commanding yet elegant; the innovative and impeccable Sainsbury Laboratory at Cambridge University; and finally the breathtaking and radical Hepworth Wakefield gallery in Yorkshire.

Past RIBA Stirling Prize Winners include, Gateshead Millennium Bridge (2002), The Gherkin office building in London (2004), and The Scottish Parliament in Edinburgh (2005).

Jury members are asked to consider many aspects of the building; from the quality of design to sustainability, budget, architectural ambition, and accessibility. This year's jury is composed of Sir Nicholas Grimshaw (architect and chair of the board), Hilde Daem (architect, Belgium), Joanna van Heyningen (architect), Naomi Cleaver (designer and TV presenter), and Sir Mark Jones (Master of St Cross College Oxford).

Take a look through the slideshow to see some photographs of the shortlisted buildings and be sure to let us know what you think in the comments section.

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  • Lyric Theatre, Belfast

    This is the new home for the Lyric Theatre in Belfast. "The steeply sloping river frontage within a tightly knit fabric of brick terraced houses presented a demanding agenda for a building destined to be a public facility in a domestic environment capable of accommodating large numbers in the auditorium, studio and rehearsal room." Architect: Mark Grehan from <a href="http://www.odonnell-tuomey.ie/" target="_hplink">O'Donnell + Tuomey</a>

  • Lyric Theatre, Belfast

    "The theatre is both modest and self-confident, deferential and assertive...The quality of the interior spaces, its sensitive response to a challenging site and the expansion of the Lyric's ability to function behind the scenes make this a stunning accomplishment and a pleasure to spend time in." Read more <a href="http://ribastirlingprize.architecture.com/?page_id=7671" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Maggie's Centre, Glasgow

    <a href="http://www.maggiescentres.org/centres/glasgow/introduction.html" target="_hplink">Maggie's Centre</a> provides comprehensive cancer support programmes for people and their families affected by cancer. "The building is curiously introvert and extrovert at the same time. Nearly all the spaces relate to natural landscape; either to grassy banks, tree trunks and foliage outside or to the (less successful) interior grass mound, viewed through floor-to-ceiling glass...The plan looks haphazard, even chaotic, and there is a medley of different space and materials, but this is a masterful composition of highly efficient space." Architect: Rem Koolhaas from <a href="http://oma.eu/" target="_hplink">OMA</a>

  • Maggie's Centre, Glasgow

    "Despite its seeming contradictions--introspective/extrovert, transparency/privacy, personal/communal, active/calm--it manages a connectedness, transparency and informal charm that meets the brief admirably to provide an uplifting refuge for those dealing with cancer." Read more <a href="http://ribastirlingprize.architecture.com/?page_id=7667" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • New Court, London

    The corresponding photograph is of the new corporate headquarters of Rothschild Bank, which has occupied the New Court site since 1809. "This sequence of new public realms and vistas improves the quality of the everyday life and streetscape of the City and gives a quiet public presence to this previously private institution. The attention to detail and combination of materials used throughout the building gives a sense of underlying, understated elegance heightened by the considered contrast of a number of carefully composed original artefacts and the quirky use of super-scale graphic extracts drawn from the Rothschild's collection of fine and decorative arts." Architect: <a href="http://oma.eu/" target="_hplink">OMA</a> with Allies and Morrison

  • New Court, London

    "The building culminates in the fourth annexe, a 'sky pavilion' lifted above the cubic office volume to create a rooftop loggia and garden. This disengaged volume contains a series of meeting, dining and function rooms within two double-height spaces that offer panoramic views across the City." Read more <a href="http://ribastirlingprize.architecture.com/?page_id=7673" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Olympic Stadium, London

    The new <a href="http://www.london2012.com/venue/olympic-stadium/" target="_hplink">Olympic Stadium</a> serves as the centerpiece for the 2012 London Olympics. "The organisation of the stadium focuses very much on the ease of movement of the large numbers of people who will use the stadium during the Games. Spectators approach and move into the building from an arrival plinth that screens all 'back of house' activities below and enables level access around the full perimeter of the stadium from which people then access the different tiers of seating and facilities. The bowl of the stadium provides clear sightlines throughout and a surprisingly intimate relationship with the events for a venue of this scale." Architect: <a href="http://populous.com/" target="_hplink">Populous</a>

  • Olympic Stadium, London

    "The design adeptly dealt with an extremely demanding brief, creating on the one hand a 'temporary' venue that engages with the sustainable agenda and legacy requirements of the Games, and a landmark for the Games on the other, which, with its expressive and identifiable crown of rooftop floodlights, has already become a landmark on the skyline of the City." Read more <a href="http://ribastirlingprize.architecture.com/?page_id=7682" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • Sainsbury Laboratory, Cambridge

    The corresponding photograph is of the new <a href="http://www.slcu.cam.ac.uk/" target="_hplink">Sainsbury Laboratory </a>at Cambridge University. "The building is an exciting new typology, with spaces for research juxtaposed with those for education; the private and the public; the highly-technological nurture of nature with the simple enjoyment of an extended botanic garden." Architect: <a href="http://www.stantonwilliams.com/" target="_hplink">Stanton Williams</a> Client: University of Cambridge Contractor: Kier Regional

  • Sainsbury Laboratory, Cambridge

    "Sustainability through flexibility in long-term use is achieved through an adaptable facade behind the limestone pillar facade, enabling the research spaces to grow and change as required by the scientists. Despite the high energy demands of laboratories, the building has achieved a BREAM excellent rating, aided by 1000 square metres of photovoltaic panels, extensive natural lighting, and a 100 cubic metre rainwater tank for irrigation." Read more <a href="http://ribastirlingprize.architecture.com/?page_id=7678" target="_hplink">here</a>.

  • The Hepworth, Wakefield

    <a href="http://ribastirlingprize.architecture.com/?page_id=7653" target="_hplink">The Hepworth Wakefield</a> is Yorkshire's new art gallery, that explores the work of contemporary artists and celebrates Yorkshire's artistic history. "The jury were impressed by the fact that despite dramatic changes of scale within spaces, they were all focused, comfortable and relaxed, allowing both large and small objects to be showen together in an atmosphere of intimacy. The fact that you can see from one space to another and beyond draws the eye naturally through, taking you with it." Architect: <a href="http://www.davidchipperfield.co.uk/" target="_hplink">David Chipperfield Architects</a> Client: Wakefield Council Structural Engineer: Ramboll UK

  • The Hepworth, Wakefield

    "Visiting this building is a truly uplifting experience. It is very focused and perfectly considered. It gives the sense of being made specifically for the work of Hepworth whilst at the same time being very much of Yorkshire, grounded and granite like." Read more <a href="http://ribastirlingprize.architecture.com/?page_id=7653" target="_hplink">here</a>.