Tuesday22 July 2014

Stirling stars lambast system as Hadid triumphs

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Past winners and judges call for greater transparency for UK profession’s greatest prize

A host of high-profile Stirling Prize alumni have attacked the judging process of the industry’s most important accolade.
In the week that Zaha Hadid Architects scooped the prize that was tipped to go to Hopkins’ Velodrome, architects including past winners and judges have accused the RIBA of overseeing judging that is not transparent.

Edward Jones, co-founder of Dixon Jones and 2010 Stirling Prize jury member, said the current process did not “hold judges accountable for what they think”.

Under the Stirling Prize judging system, the jury visits the six shortlisted buildings, then votes individually in a secret ballot for the winner. Citations are available after the prize is awarded, but these do not indicate why a building was chosen as the overall winner.

Jones joined others, including 1996 Stirling Prize-winner Stephen Hodder, in calling for a process that would allow for discussions resulting in a public citation including reasons why the winner was chosen.

He told BD: “My point is that with a secret ballot there is no [official] discussion after the visit. That’s not good. As a judge you have to be held accountable for what you think. If you’re gagged then it’s unfortunate for the judging procedure.”

Hodder, who sat on the 1997 jury, added: “The comments you see are quite superficial, and they don’t give a reason why the winner was chosen. An insight into the nature of the debate would definitely be a step forward.”

AHMM director Simon Allford said judges’ citations “explaining their choice of one project over the others” should be made available, adding that “a reasoning is essential to maintain the Stirling’s importance and integrity”.

Allford also called for panel members’ possible conflicts of interest to be declared publicly.

“Too often the inevitable but unexplained links between people and projects start unnecessary gossip that undermines the judges’ decision and therefore the Stirling Prize’s integrity,” he said.

“Ultimately the Stirling Prize will always be about judges making choices, and so it should be. But let’s make those judges’ choices public. It will only reinforce the award’s importance.”

Deborah Saunt, chair of the RIBA Awards Group said: “The current process enables judges to debate the merits of each building in a full and frank manner with integrity. If the process were to be made completely transparent with all discussion made open to the public, there is a considerable risk that the judges would fail to provide their honest opinion and their debate would be constrained, therefore calling the integrity of the prize into question.”


Readers' comments (13)

  • Sorry Deborah but I don't agree with your view here. The simple process of thinking before you speak is all the secret policing of design commentary we need, and most of us can voice our own judgements without official tidying up. Its called democracy. Judges will be less frank and act with less integrity if their views are made public? That's a bit of an insult actually. Judging can be messy, but that's what makes it real, creditable, and believable. The official version of anything is to be mistrusted. And in any case, the truth of a design's merit, like pudding, only becomes apparent in the eating. More glasnost please.

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  • Well put, Lee. If the judges are not confident about openly sharing their opinions and observations, their fitness for the job must surely be in question.

    An averagely bright eleven year old can grasp the basics of arranging arguments to present his case in a school debate, but evidently Deborah Saunt doubts the Stirling jury's capabilities or integrity in this department.

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  • I think it would be nice to hear what the judges thought of the individual buildings but I agree they shouldn't have to justify their decision. This is not a court of law and ultimately they are chosen for the panel so their decision should be respected.

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  • There can be only one

    I'm amazed by the outcry against the school.

    Can anyone name a better modern school built in the last 10, 15 years? I can't.. Therefore the building is possibly the best in it's class.

    Can any of the other shortlisted building say they are the best in their class ? i.e. best theatre or stadia in the last decade ?

    About a year ago I decided not to jump to negative arguments about my peers, and I've found life more enjoyable when looking for the best in projects as well as learning what could be done better.

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  • the jury was probably made up of people of are unable to write an objective critique for a building. i bet the same individuals teach at universities and dislike a student's project based on personal taste only. that's what architecture has become, just arty-farty shapes and forms.

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  • TracerX....said it well.
    if the judges cant share the merit and justification of the most prestigious award in Architecture,...wondered what are we learning here..!
    'i pick one from the one put in front of me, and I just like that....' is that the judging policy?!!!

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  • "In the week that Zaha Hadid Architects scooped the prize that was tipped to go to Hopkins’ Velodrome..."

    Exactly why was the prize TIPPED to go to Hopkins?

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  • Did Hadid manage to execute her design to budget?

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  • keenplanner

    Well, "Titanic" got the Academy Award for "Best Picture"...
    Any questions?

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  • hadid is the wrong architect for this building typology

    and that's why it's a bad building, she cut corners to make her concrete slab work. If she had adhered to the rules of school design, the Evelyn Grace wouldn't look like it does.

    Pretty simple argument really.

    Velodrome should have won.

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