Azara Blog: Richard Rogers wins the RIBA Stirling Prize

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Date published: 2006/10/14

The BBC says:

Madrid's Barajas Airport has won the UK's most prestigious architecture award, the £20,000 Stirling Prize.

The colourful 1.2km-long Spanish airport building was designed by the Richard Rogers Partnership.

It is the first time the firm has won the Royal Institute of British Architects (Riba) prize.

The prize is awarded to European Union architects for the building that has made the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year.
Other nominees included the National Assembly for Wales in Cardiff, the Phaeno Science Center in Wolfsburg, Germany, a family home in west London, Evelina Children's Hospital in south-east London, and the Idea store in Whitechapel, east London.

Well Rogers has never won the prize and he is one of the doyens of British architecture, so it seemed inevitable that he would win. At least the airport is a wonderful building. Apparently the new Heathrow Terminal 5 building, also by Rogers, will come in at twice the cost per square meter. And it will not look nearly as good (and probably not work nearly as well). Unfortunately the British spend far too much development money on lawyers and not enough on architects.

The "people's choice" for the prize was the children's hospital, the politically correct option, by Hopkins Architects. It is certainly much better than almost any other hospital in Britain, and could easily have been the winner. (But is the NHS going to maintain the building properly?)

The National Assembly for Wales, again by Rogers, is also good (and a bargain at a seventh of the price of the Scottish Parliament), so even that could have won. Especially since airports are not politically correct and non-English parliaments are.

Apparently the Phaeno Science Centre, by Zaha Hadid Architects, was the bookies' choice. This can only be because Hadid seems to have become flavour of the month amongst a certain section of the ruling elite. The Science Centre is ok on the inside but looks dreadful on the outside and you have to wonder how well it will weather in time. There is no way it deserved to win.

The Idea store (i.e. library with a few extra bells and whistles) is good enough but it's not really that amazing (and c.f. the Peckham Library by Will Alsop and the Laban arts centre building by Herzog and de Meuron, for example).

And it's hard to see a house ever winning the Stirling Prize, it's just not in the same league. And although the Brick House, by Caruso St John Architects, is an architectural statement, it looks more like a concrete bunker (with a few skylights) than anything else. It's an example of what happens when you put too much building on too little land. (And the minimalist interior is like a prison, but that's entirely the fault of the owners.)

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