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Is the RIAS Award on its last legs?

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October 22 2004

The £25,000 RIAS Award for Architecture, which suffered a major blow earlier this year when its patron, Andrew Doolan, died suddenly and unexpectedly, has announced what may be its last shortlist. Without Doolan’s funding, the future of the award is uncertain and the RIAS has declined to comment on whether the award will continue next year.
The four contenders are relatively modest projects, none of which had a budget of more than £3 million, and are evenly spread across Scotland. The Eastgate Theatre in Peebles by Richard Murphy Architects is up against Gehry’s Maggie’s Centre in Dundee, St Aloysius College Clavius Building in Glasgow by Elder and Cannon, and the Lotte Glob House, a remote timber home and artists studio in Sutherland, by Aberdeen architect Gokay Deveci.
Richard Murphy has expressed his concern over a “nasty, bitchy” letter published in The Scotsman criticising the Eastgate Theatre which he feels could jeopardise his chances of winning. The letter, from the Scottish secretary of the actor’s union Equity and the chairman of the Federation of Scottish Theatres, criticises the restricted view of the stage from certain parts of the auditorium and inadequate space in the wings. Murphy blames cost-cutting and changes to the design of the stage made by Eastgate managers for the problems.
The Lotte Glob House is a low budget project in a remote location, rather like last year’s controversial winner An Turas (now known to some Tiree locals as the ‘skinning-up hut’ due to the activities of surfers who frequent the shelter). Gokay Deveci actually entered the design for last year’s award, but it failed to even make the longlist for visitation. Since then, the scheme has picked up Best Residential Project at the Scottish Design Awards and attracted much praise from locals who have noticed the distinctive building sitting within its rugged surroundings.
The inclusion of the Maggie’s Centre has re-ignited the predictable debate about whether it is only considered a great building because of its’ famous architect, Frank Gehry. But whoever wins, questions are certain to be raised about the quality and number of significant public buildings being commissioned in Scotland.
Judges for the award were RIAS President Gordon Murray, Malcolm Fraser, Finnish architect and researcher Hennu Kjisik, and Professor Andy Macmillan. This year there is a chance to vote for your favourite online at scottisharchitecture.com. Results of the public vote will be announced shortly before the official winner is unveiled at the Point Hotel on Thursday 28 October.

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