WAN Awards Head Judge Martha Thorne talks with Michael Hammond on Shoptalk

Alison Carter
19 Jun 2019

Martha is Dean at the IE University in Madrid, Executive Director of the Pritzker Architecture Prize since 2015, and Head Judge at the 2019 WAN Awards. In this excerpt she tells Michael Hammond about the importance of awards schemes within architecture.

MT: Talking about the evolution of the Pritzker Prize, “Well, generally it is one person who wins the prize in recent history there have been people who have worked together. And even that has been one case of three people who work very, very closely together. So three people have have won the prize. And this clearly is an evolution in an understanding of the practice of architecture and the role of professionals…

MH: Thanks Martha, that leads me nicely to your latest role, I'm not sure if it's been announced yet but you're you're going to be the Head Judge at the WAN Awards in London, 2019, and that's very exciting for the awards because they have never had a head judge before so you will have a key role in it. Why do you think it's important for architects to enter awards?

MT: I think that it has it has several positives objective. I think one is so that they can contrast and compare their work with bad of others. And now we have the great advantage of technology so we don't have to rely on just physical proximity proximity but we can we can look at what's going on around the world, we can learn from best practices we can compare and contrast, and that hopefully helps architects and designers to push themselves to demand more to go deeper to broaden the horizons and I think that that's probably one of the first reasons I would say that awards are important.

Of course awards are a recognition of the talent and the outcome is that architects and designers create those environments which ultimately architecture is to serve other people. We don't build buildings to close them up and just look at them but to deliver buildings to provide function, environment, safety, security, all sorts of goals or objectives and the service of other people.

I think that to recognize this and to recognize quality, it's also good for clients and for society, to then understand how difficult the work of architects and designers, is to support them to be good clients to be a responsive society which is asking for the best of architects, but also supporting them, and in that path to give the best.

...and then, finally, if there are other recognitions that are given, those recognitions are given to other professions much more readily. If we look at actors and actresses, for example, if we, if we look at films. These awards are extremely popular, and we talk a lot about them spend a lot of time looking at the winners and what they've done and discussing it. And so I think that it is important to recognize the work of architects to elevate it to become a more common topic for the public to discuss and. And in that sense, I think that not only does it recognize and help shine the light quality for architects and hopefully it will help them in their own work and commissions, but it also has that role to expand the debate within the broader society and give more attention to architecture and design, and the city, because that is really is of concern to all of us.

MT: talking about the podcast, “You know, it (the interview) helps people think about some of these bigger issues and I find that when we're in our day to day processes we don't always have the luxury to do that so today I enjoy.”

MH: That's absolutely true and that's one of the things I love about this process,  having sat on many judging sessions for the wan awards, overseeing many passionate discussions. I remember architects saying “we've really enjoyed this, we actually get a chance to talk about architecture and design at a level that you just don't get in the day to day office routine where there's so much pressure.

For more details about the WAN Awards and how to enter please click here.  

This is just an excerpt of the conversation with Martha…the full version is here.  For more engaging, informative Shoptalk podcasts please click here.

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