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Architects shun RIAS over perceived award anomalies

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April 6 2012

Architects shun RIAS over perceived award anomalies
Prima donna architect Zaha Hadid has stirred up a storm of controversy after it emerged that Glasgow’s Riverside Museum had – against the protestations of RIBA’s Robert Dye, failed to make it onto a shortlist of 23 at the RIAS Awards. The result has led a “disappointed” Hadid to join two other (unnamed) practices in refusing to cooperate in the publication of a commemorative booklet intended to recognise all entrants.

The split between RIBA and the RIAS, which saw Dye out voted three to one on the scheme, has been used by Hadid’s office to suggest that there may be more to her absence than mere architecture. An allegation vigorously refuted by RIAS Secretary Neil Baxter, who denies influencing the outcome as he merely acted as an “adviser” to the judging process. He told Urban Realm: “If two liked it, it was on. If three didn’t it wasn’t. We are in a partnership and what others choose to say about the judging process is up to them and perhaps slightly unprofessional.”

Nevertheless the expressed incredulity from some quarters has left an air of controversy surrounding the awards in their inaugural year, with people questioning the effectiveness of a judging process conducted around a slideshow. Moreover with RIAS President Sholto Humphries apparently at loggerheads with Dye it would appear it was left to just one layperson and architecture critic Peter Wilson to cast the deciding votes. The latter of which was only drafted in because Wood Award projects, for which he was a principal judge, were only eligible if they first made it onto the main RIAS shortlist.

Questions have also been asked of the criteria used for the judging with, it would seem, a relatively vague notion of “architectural quality” used to determine shortlisted candidates, the loose basis of which only opened the door to subjectivity around the quality (or lack thereof) in submitted presentations. With no indication of where the bar is being set and an unlimited number of shortlisting’s possible it begs the question why not shortlist all to avoid any controversy?

Further confusion was added to the mix by making projects entered for the Doolan Award in 2010 or 2011 eligible for a RIAS Award, a decision which meant that projects shortlisted for these were automatically shortlisted for a 2012 RIAS Award - for the obvious necessity of consistency.

Baxter stressed: “The judges review the given, which is a combination of written material, photographs and drawings. We don’t ask for a huge amount we ask for five illustrations and one A4 page and from those they choose their shortlist. But they err on the side of generosity on the basis of the givens. So it’s the quality of the material that you have in front of you. It’s not about any preconceptions, any prior knowledge or experience.

“If the givens are not of sufficient quality to argue the case for visiting a particular building then the building does not get visited. In some cases there are buildings which you know to be bad or indifferent – but the photographs can be stunning with an intelligently argued narrative so we look at those. In other occasions, predictably enough, you get schemes that you know to be good but actually the submission is poor. The photography does not make any case for visiting the building. That is the only fair way to do it.

“The suggestion seems to be that if somebody is famous then you have to go and visit their building - that is certainly unfair. It’s about architectural quality and what comes through in the materials we’re given in terms of the community involvement and the positive socio-economic effect. It’s not necessarily measured in terms of simple visitor numbers or budgets.

“Ironically AJ complained about our generosity last year but this year they seem to want us to be more generous, so we are getting slightly conflicted messages. We didn’t shortlist 48 out of 71 schemes. It’s quite interesting that everyone mentions the one amongst the 48.”

Hadid’s misery at being told there are now 23 better buildings in Scotland than the Riverside Museum is compounded by the new ‘one stop’ submission process adopted by the RIAS. It means that RIBA are now barred from considering Glasgow’s new Transport Museum for any further award, creating problems for their members and ensuring that she will remain unrecognised for her most famous work in Scotland.

Image taken by Tom Manley.

20 Comments

NC
#1 Posted by NC on 6 Apr 2012 at 13:05 PM
It's a terrible building, that's why it's not on the list.
CommonSense
#2 Posted by CommonSense on 6 Apr 2012 at 13:12 PM
Finally - we see an awards process which doesn't automatically offer an accolade for a building just because a 'Starchitect' designed it. RIBA really should take note and remember what architecture really is, rather than reducing it to a circus of personalities.

RIAS are to be praised for their awards system - the Transport museum is certainly not an incredible building. Hadid's other work in Scotland, her Maggies centre, is revolting (Ive visited it). Just because she is famous does not make her good.

Also - RIAS were critised earlier for shortlisting 'too many' for the Doolan awards. Is this article suggesting that every entrant should be shortlisted?
Boad
#3 Posted by Boad on 6 Apr 2012 at 13:31 PM
# Now Now NC, Thats a bit unfair
Its a terrible building that cost £100M to build
......expensive and p1sh
John Glenday
#4 Posted by John Glenday on 6 Apr 2012 at 13:52 PM
The crux of Hadid's argument seems to be that the museum wasn't visited. Site visits to all schemes, may, allay some of the criticism.
CommonSense
#5 Posted by CommonSense on 6 Apr 2012 at 14:04 PM
John Glenday.

Im unsure whether any architectural awards in the UK visit every single nomination for awards before drawing up a shortlist? In this instance 71 projects would need to have been visited...
John Glenday
#6 Posted by John Glenday on 6 Apr 2012 at 14:34 PM
Some of the smaller schemes do, but even then you could be scattered to the four corners. There are no easy solutions.

In any event I'd have thought that a scheme of the gravity of Riverside would have been visited already by most of the judges - maybe that was a factor?
Monkey9000
#7 Posted by Monkey9000 on 6 Apr 2012 at 17:40 PM
Superb judging descision by RIAS not being swayed by a starchitect who's practice has created a souless, tacky piece of plastic architecture.
KM
#8 Posted by KM on 7 Apr 2012 at 12:08 PM
It's not a special building. Not at all.
Andrew Brown
#9 Posted by Andrew Brown on 8 Apr 2012 at 09:59 AM
Sorry to say but it is unfair that the riverside building is not shortlisted, I mean R&H's Dundee House was on the list last year. The building is better than some on the list. But I'm glad that RIAS are not changing their mind just because she is making a fuss.
Ian
#10 Posted by Ian on 8 Apr 2012 at 13:05 PM
What has Dundee House being on the list last year got to do with the price of fish?
d-bag
#11 Posted by d-bag on 8 Apr 2012 at 13:48 PM
if anyone has visited this building in the rain, it's fairly obvious why it shouldn't be nominated for any prizes!
Surely buildings still have to perform, even if they are designed by a big name
Dave
#12 Posted by Dave on 8 Apr 2012 at 17:29 PM
Ian, Dundee House was on the list last year and on the list again this year, it's a bit cheeky on R&H. They always keep entering their buildings again and again. Why are the judges allowing a building that has already been shortlisted in the past get another chance and not the Riverside building a chance?
Dave
#13 Posted by Dave on 8 Apr 2012 at 17:40 PM
What is even more ironic that Dundee House did not even get a special mention last year lol. http://www.rias.org.uk/awards/doolan-award/2011-awards/ They really do scrape the bottom of the barrel to desperately get an award lol.
CommonSense
#14 Posted by CommonSense on 8 Apr 2012 at 19:54 PM
I think Dave and Ian should look more closely about which awards these are.

This is the inaugural RIAS awards - the clue is well and truly in the name.

The awards you are referring to as being 'last years list' is clearly the Andrew Doolan award - which the RIAS has involvement in.
Dave
#15 Posted by Dave on 8 Apr 2012 at 20:02 PM
CommonSense, you should read the info on the website a bit more closely, the Andrew Doolan award is still running, it is a category with the o/a rias awards.
Ian
#16 Posted by Ian on 8 Apr 2012 at 20:51 PM
CommonSense, Dave
If we spent a bit less time chasing Awards and a bit more making sure the buildings we design actually performed properly i think our industry would be in much better shape. The continual chasing of Awards handed out by our industry peers is one of the reasons our industry is on its knees at the moment. Even you appear to be getting confused by the numerous awards ceremonies each year ......do we really need yet another one ?
CommonSense
#17 Posted by CommonSense on 8 Apr 2012 at 21:13 PM
Ian, - agreed. However this is the devil we know at the moment.

I would say awards should not be awarded to a building until it is at least 10 years old and been tested more rigorously.
SAndals
#18 Posted by SAndals on 10 Apr 2012 at 13:41 PM
Boo hoo hoo.
Zaha, why don't you cry me a Riverside Museum...best thing about the place is the Glenlee.
is this it?
#19 Posted by is this it? on 10 Apr 2012 at 22:17 PM
it is crazy that this building is not even shortlisted...should have been designed by a Glasgow Architect...but deserves to be on the list for its skyline and considering the needs of skaters in its landscaping at least!
Kieran Gaffney
#20 Posted by Kieran Gaffney on 23 Apr 2012 at 17:20 PM
I found it astonishing that this building is not on the shortlist. I'm no fan of Zaha Hadid's architecture but this is a really interesting building and there are some amazing bits to it; the quality of some of the details and craftsmanship is outstanding. I understand that there might be some problems with it but i very much doubt that there 23 better buildings in Scotland.

I found this comment to be stupid in the extreme:
"In some cases there are buildings which you know to be bad or indifferent – but the photographs can be stunning with an intelligently argued narrative so we look at those. In other occasions, predictably enough, you get schemes that you know to be good but actually the submission is poor. The photography does not make any case for visiting the building. That is the only fair way to do it."

If you know a building is brilliant give it an award!

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