Manser win blurs the boundaries
It may have been the best house on the shortlist, but Saturday’s wildcard winner has kicked off a new debate over eligibility
Five years ago, when OMA’s Casa da Musica was shortlisted for the Stirling Prize, there was widespread incredulity that the award’s remit to promote British architecture was being well served by shortlisting a building by a Dutch architect in Portugal.
The RIBA Awards committee soon afterwards changed the rules. Now the only buildings eligible are those designed by chartered UK architects for sites in the EU or by international fellows of the RIBA for sites in Britain.
That focus on buildings built or designed in Britain carries a logic that is immediately understandable to all. By contrast, Saturday’s presentation of the Manser Medal to a house in France by a French architect who secured elig-ibility by joining the RIBA at the point of entering, left many bewildered.
The complaint isn’t one of little Englander protectionism. No-one was disputing that it was the best house on the shortlist but the awards’ identity has clearly been damaged.
The prize will continue to rely on the support of British architects. However, it will be interesting to see if quite as many put themselves up for it next year.