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Tuesday22 July 2014

Letters to the editor

Stirling decision stuck in the past

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How disappointing it was to see Zaha Hadid’s Evelyn Grace Academy win this year’s Stirling Prize.

In an era of job losses and government cuts, when economic prospects look as bleak as they did two years ago, it feels particularly short-sighted of the judges to select a project that epitomises the supposed glory days of developers writing blank cheques to “starchitects”. Expensive curved bits of concrete and coloured cladding can’t seriously be considered radical architectural solutions. Even the notion that the Stirling Prize should be awarded to a single building is starting to look a little outdated.

The prize has often been accused of rewarding celebrity rather than good design. At a time when architects are losing jobs and when the public perception of the profession is of fat, overpaid, arrogant individuals with no respect for public taste or opinion, could we not rethink how the Stirling Prize is awarded? What about social and environmental benefit for the least amount of money? Or does value for money have no place in architectural criticism? Had Hadid been a more creative or lateral-thinking architect we could have seen twice the social benefit for half the money.

I suspect the Evelyn Grace Academy was chosen out of nostalgia. Nostalgia for when government projects and developers poured millions into the pockets of big name architects in exchange for cachet and glitzy showpieces. Those days are no more.

Matt Woollven via email

Think of the children …

Evelyn Grace Academy is not a politically driven statement directed at grownups. It is a very good building for kids.

The other five projects are representative of the good range of well-designed modern buildings we have seen in the last two years. Nevertheless the academy is clearly in a class of its own, possessing the range of architectural invention all great buildings seem to have.

There cannot be too much rebuttal of Gove’s stance on architecture and no doubt this building could impress the authorities if they have a mind to find out more about its architecture and understand it, especially the “loved by its users” bit.

Julyan Wickham
London W2

Double standards

The Stirling Prize is seen by many at home and abroad as the UK’s premier architectural prize. Meanwhile, chartered practice status has been established by the RIBA and defines practice members as having “met the RIBA’s world-leading standards of professional practice covering matters such as quality, customer service and insurance”.

I note that since introduction of the Chartered Practice Scheme in 2007 it would appear that only one of the Stirling Prize-winning practices is a RIBA Chartered Practice.

It does not seem equitable, especially in these times, that many small- and medium-sized firms of good standing (including some previous nominees) have to jump through the hoops of the membership process to meet the 17 requirements while the prize is regularly won by those who have not.

Gordon Duffy
Edinburgh

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