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Friday01 August 2014

Hepworth director says losing to expensive building in privileged city was "hard"

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Simon Wallis “not excited” by Stanton Williams’ Sainsbury Laboratory

The director of the Hepworth Wakefield has has spoken out about his disappointment of losing the 2012 RIBA Stirling Prize to Stanton Williams’ Sainsbury Laboratory.

In a blog Simon Wallis, director of the Hepworth Wakefield, said he wanted to be a gracious loser but that “it was especially hard to lose to a building with an enormous budget (dwarfing ours) in an extremely privileged city, and a project to which the public barely have access”.

He also said the building “doesn’t excite” him from the photographs he’s seen.

Wallis also went on to complain about the judging process. “It’d be good too if some of the judges of the Stirling Prize were from the north, or lived in the north of England,” he wrote, before admitting that competitions make him “regress to a mental age of about eight years old”.

The Hepworth Wakefield, designed by David Chipperfield Architects, was the bookies’ favourite to win this year’s award.

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Readers' comments (16)

  • It'd be easy to dismiss this as sour grapes, but I kind of see his point.

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  • Hear, hear. The Stanton Williams building doesn’t excite. None of their work excites. It's bland, flavourless, and has no edge.

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  • I agree - the Hepworth building is really exciting while the winner is pleasant enough it is nothing too special

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  • Hepworth is a tremendous building, sublime, but what really bemuses me is how The Lyric Theatre did not win? Am still at odds over that decision, what a wonderfully crafted building that deserved the accolade.

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  • Disappointing comments. I have nothing to do with this project, but surely we should be happy to celebrate generous patrons spending shedloads of money on fantastic buildings. As someone who has travelled widely in the Middle East I can assure you it is quite easy to spend equal shedloads on utter dross!

    As for privilege, students from every walk of life can make it to Cambridge through talent, dedication and hard work - they deserve to study in great buildings.

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  • I guess a lot of the cost difference comes from the relative functions. I've seen the Hepworth and it's beautiful, addressing its river site in a way that hasn't come across much, but there's not a great deal in it. The lab fit-out must have been hugely more complicated. I haven't seen the Stanton Williams building but it looks wonderful, serene and perfectly proportioned. But it's right to say judges should come from across the country.

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  • I totally agree with SImon Wallis.
    All involved with architectural competitions should be mindful of the cavernous North-South divide.
    The new Hepworth Gallery is about regional identity, and a massively important part of the regeneration of Wakefield.
    The judges choice is very disappointing ..... Unless ofcourse you work or study in Cambridge.

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  • Jane, it's a prize for the best building not for the politics of the north-south divide. They do let people from Yorkshire into Cambridge you know.

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  • Chipperfield is a London Architect too.

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  • In saying that I was all for the Lyric. Is there any coverage from Belfast?

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