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Tuesday29 July 2014

Hadid's Stirling Prize win 'is a nasty irony'

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The decision to award this year’s Stirling Prize to Zaha Hadid’s Evelyn Grace Academy has been called “a nasty irony” by one of the UK’s leading schools architects.

Jonathan Ellis Miller, founder of east-London practice Ellis Miller, said the £37.5 million school in Brixton “should have been extraordinary” and that the judging panel, which included engineer Hanif Kara and landscape designer Dan Pearson “clearly did not understand anything about school building”.

“You look at the furniture and you have bog standard timber furniture that you’d find in a pub. The people who judged it  clearly could not see the real evidence,” he said.

“The irony is that within a couple of miles of the Magna Centre [where the award ceremony took place] there are schools that lost their BSF funding through [education secretary] Michael Gove, and here we are rewarding the highest prize to an over-priced school.

“It’s a nasty irony and I think it sends a message of crass stupidity and total insensitivity.”

Hadid’s school was the surprise winner at the 2011 Stirling Prize on Saturday night, beating Hopkins’ Velodrome – the long-standing favourite – to the crown.

Julia Barfield, co-founder of Marks Barfield, said: “My first choice would have been the Velodrome, just in design terms. That was head and shoulders above everything else.

“At the same time I think that a strong message does need to be sent to Michael Gove. Whether this is quite the right way to do it I’m not sure.”

Deborah Saunt, director at DSDHA, defended the judges’ decision and said the reaction demonstrated “the power of the press and people’s collective expectations”.

She added: “Based on the goverment’s response to architecture to date, I don’t think this will have any effect. They’re not in a mood to listen to arguments about great architecture and what it can achieve.”

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Readers' comments (19)

  • zecks_marquise

    This isn't great achitecture so Deborah's comment is rather moot. What makes this win even more annoying is that (on the recent open house visit) I was told that the school had to repaint half the building because the original grey internals made it dark and depressing.

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  • Would this be the Alanis Morrisette school of irony???

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  • Hopkins’ Velodrome every time - should have been a no-brainer.

    Clearly, the judging panel don't understand at jot about school building. Marks out of 10 = 1: must try harder!

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  • I thought this was a politically astute move. RIBA needs to make friends with the coalition now more than ever. ARK, the client, is the well-connected in that respect - not to mention the hedgefunds to match!

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  • There can be only one

    Good Winner. Shows you dont have to loose architectural vision when designing schools. Changing internal paint colour is a small remediation for such a prototype.. Puts all those generic shed school being built to shame. Well done to Zaha for undertaking a project and giving it their all even when the Fee would not have even covered the CGI's..!

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  • ...Of those that made the final list, An Gaelaras by O'Donnell + Tuomey is my winner for its spatial qualities and well considered use of building techniques and materials that allow the building to work at a human scale without losing an overall strength of character (it reminds me of Caruso St John Architects Walsall Gallery of over a decade ago for those reasons). Both are reminiscent of the best buildings in the UK, Europe and parts of North America post second world war up to the 70s. Hopkins Architects Velodrome London would be my second choice for a formal clarity, technical resolution and intelligent use of materials that achieves character, rather than obliterating it in pursuit of 'simplicity'. The final list isn't a genuine reflection of the best buildings on the long list and I can see projects that didn't wind up in the final six that probably should have and probably would have made the final decision more difficult - setting aside considerations that fall outside of general architectural merit.

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  • It puts across a bad image of Architects when the profession opts to name this as the best example of new Architecture in Britain.What chance have we got to persuade the construction industry and general public that there's value in what we do?

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  • God love 'em, the Stirling Prize tries to 'send a message' again.... When was the last time the industry dabbled in this - Roger's Maggi centre as a snub to Prince Charles over the Royal Hospital Road site, wasn't it? I reckon its about time that the Stirling Prize judges understand that their forte doesn't lie in political lobbying... Backing Zaha in straightened times just demonstrates how disconnected with the world we are as a profession. Nice one, Peter.

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  • the sad aspect is, most school are getting less than half this cash to 'rebuild' or now refurbish existing accomodation. For a typical 1200 pupil school you are looking at 13ish mil, to major construction firms taking excessive fees..... public jobs are still a joke!

    the idea it costs 30+mil is very painful to hear in times when schools around the country are having budgets slashed resulting in rebuilds changing to refurbs or pulled completly!

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  • Hadid she do it again? Had enough of Hadid! Better architecture on just about every page of BD! Ever been had....id.

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