Long time coming...

Monday 04 Oct 2010

4th time lucky for Zaha as she finally scoops Britain’s top architecture award with MAXXI

Following several years of repeated disappointment, Saturday night's official RIBA Stirling Prize 2010 award ceremony saw ambitious British-Iraqi architect Zaha Hadid snatch the coveted title - and rather handsome £20,000 cheque - from her five equally eclectic competitors. Hadid's winning design for MAXXI, the National Museum of XXI Century Arts in Rome, is the first award or prize that the controversial architect has claimed in Britain throughout her extensive career, leading many to question why it has taken so long for the UK to recognise Hadid's unique talents.

The animated architect alluded to this void in her awards cabinet during a short acceptance speech, quipping: "It's really very exciting for me to win a British prize for a change", which drew cheers from supporters and competitors alike.    

Now in its fifteenth year, the RIBA Stirling Prize (run in association with the Architect's Journal and Benchmark) was initiated in 1996 with the aim to ‘get the blood flowing again in British architecture' - or so concludes The Culture Show's Tom Dyckhoff. Broadcast for the first time live on BBC TWO's The Culture Show from the Roundhouse in north London, the heavy, drawling tones of Kevin McCloud spent almost an hour educating the general public about the history of the Stirling Prize and quizzing the esteemed jury on their responses to the shortlisted entries.

Flanked by her right hand men Patrik Schumacher and Gianluca Racana, a glowing Hadid paid tribute to the prize's namesake, confessing: "It is a great honour for me to receive this award, in particular because it is in Jim Stirling's name who was a great architect and taught us how to deal with complexity at a very early time." Swelling with pride she also referred with touching affection to the difficulties of working with an Italian client, stating: "It is a shame that our client Pio Baldi could not be here because he lost his passport. In a way it's a very confirmation of the Italianess of this project!"

The MAXXI itself was arguably the most arresting of the six shortlisted projects; its bold, unapologetic chunks of raw concrete almost outshining the art it was designed to house - although it is understood that during the design process, Hadid was yet to be informed as to what would be exhibited in the series of rooms she was creating. An open weave of heavily swerving staircases criss-cross the soaring central atrium, as the basic colour palette of cream, black and vibrant red oozes through the yawning spaces.

Despite being the bookies favourite from day one, Hadid faced stiff competition from Rick Mather Architects, Theis and Khan, DSDHA, dRMM, and David Chipperfield Architects with Julian Harrap Architects. Whilst the range in sectors was relatively compact - a mixed use structure, two schools and three museums - it was reassuring to note that multiple education facilities were recognised by the powers that be after a dismal few months in which the government turned its back on the Building Schools for the Future programme.

For a more comprehensive review of Zaha Hadid’s MAXXI, click here.

Sian Disson
News Editor

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