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Thursday24 July 2014

Manser win blurs the boundaries

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It may have been the best house on the shortlist, but Saturday’s wildcard winner has kicked off a new debate over eligibility

Ellis Woodman

Ellis Woodman- executive editor

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.

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Thomas Corrie

    The strangest part of the RIBA Awards is that the EU is included in the Stirling Prize rather than the Lubetkin Prize. The change to differentiate between international fellows and UK chartered architects only serves to blur the boundaries further.

    Since its remit is for the "greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year" I think the Stirling Prize should be for a building in the UK by an RIBA member which would mean that all of this year's shortlist would be eligible but previous winners such as Stuttgart Music School, Maxxi, Barajas Airport, and the Marbach Museum of Modern Literature would not.

    Instead they would have been eligible for the the Lubetkin Prize which should be awarded to be for a building outside of the UK by an RIBA member.

    It seems entirely arbitrary that you can win the Stirling Prize for a building in Germany but not for one in Canada.

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