UK awards spark row

Thursday 29 May 2008

RIBA accused of operating “closed shop”

This year’s Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) awards, which should have been a celebration of good architecture, has instead has re-ignited the ongoing Modern versus Classic row. The ‘long list’ of projects selected by the RIBA panel consists almost entirely of Modernist buildings sparking a venomous tirade from Quinlan Terry, one the UK’s strongest advocates of the classical style, calling the RIBA awards a closed shop for modernists and added, “The RIBA Awards are jobs for the boys and beneath contempt; I simply wouldn’t bother to consider them.”

In response, senior RIBA panelist Joanna Van Heyningan said that, “The quality of traditional architecture has rarely been good enough to deserve an award.”

The winners of the RIBA regional awards essentially make up the feeder for the Stirling Prize in September, the UK’s most prestigious award.

A house voted by the UK’s Georgian Group this year as the “best new building in the classical tradition” was entered for the national RIBA Award by its designer, Robert Adam never got beyond the first stage and was rejected by a panel of local architects. A leading traditional architect and himself a judge of RIBA Awards for 12 years, Robert Adam said, “This doesn’t surprise me, it’s well-known in the profession that traditional buildings don’t get RIBA Awards. In this case, it’s unusual to have such a clear-cut example where an expert body has given it the highest accolade only to have the professional institution reject it out of hand. I just wish the RIBA would be honest and admit that their awards aren’t for architecture at all but just for one kind of architecture – the contemporary or modernist style.”

Left: Denton Corker Marshall's Manchester Civil Justice Centre was a winner of the North West regional award.
Below: Robert Adam’s New House, in Hampshire got nowhere

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