Stirling stars lambast system as Hadid triumphs
Past winners and judges call for greater transparency for UK profession’s greatest prize
A host of high-profile Stirling Prize alumni have attacked the judging process of the industry’s most important accolade.
In the week that Zaha Hadid Architects scooped the prize that was tipped to go to Hopkins’ Velodrome, architects including past winners and judges have accused the RIBA of overseeing judging that is not transparent.
Edward Jones, co-founder of Dixon Jones and 2010 Stirling Prize jury member, said the current process did not “hold judges accountable for what they think”.
Under the Stirling Prize judging system, the jury visits the six shortlisted buildings, then votes individually in a secret ballot for the winner. Citations are available after the prize is awarded, but these do not indicate why a building was chosen as the overall winner.
Jones joined others, including 1996 Stirling Prize-winner Stephen Hodder, in calling for a process that would allow for discussions resulting in a public citation including reasons why the winner was chosen.
He told BD: “My point is that with a secret ballot there is no [official] discussion after the visit. That’s not good. As a judge you have to be held accountable for what you think. If you’re gagged then it’s unfortunate for the judging procedure.”
Hodder, who sat on the 1997 jury, added: “The comments you see are quite superficial, and they don’t give a reason why the winner was chosen. An insight into the nature of the debate would definitely be a step forward.”
AHMM director Simon Allford said judges’ citations “explaining their choice of one project over the others” should be made available, adding that “a reasoning is essential to maintain the Stirling’s importance and integrity”.
Allford also called for panel members’ possible conflicts of interest to be declared publicly.
“Too often the inevitable but unexplained links between people and projects start unnecessary gossip that undermines the judges’ decision and therefore the Stirling Prize’s integrity,” he said.
“Ultimately the Stirling Prize will always be about judges making choices, and so it should be. But let’s make those judges’ choices public. It will only reinforce the award’s importance.”
Deborah Saunt, chair of the RIBA Awards Group said: “The current process enables judges to debate the merits of each building in a full and frank manner with integrity. If the process were to be made completely transparent with all discussion made open to the public, there is a considerable risk that the judges would fail to provide their honest opinion and their debate would be constrained, therefore calling the integrity of the prize into question.”