Critical Round-Up: Reactions to the Stirling Prize Shortlist

  • 23 Jul 2013
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Most critics agree that this year’s shortlist for the Stirling Prize is more “modest” than in past years – which is not to say that they didn’t have plenty to say on RIBA’s selection. Check out the critical responses from The Financial Times Edwin Heathcoate, The Guardian’s Oliver Wainwright and The Independent’s Jay Merrick, after the break…

Edwin Heathcoate, The Financial Times

Edwin Heathcote notes that pinning down what this year’s nominees might say about the state of architecture “is tricky to ascertain.” This comes from the obvious absence of a “blockbuster” project, not to mention that none can be found in the capital city of London.  But, he offers, “It tells us little about the economy – beyond an obviously shrinking public sector – and it tells us that perhaps the blockbuster building is on the wane, whether through fashion or finance. London’s skyline is dense with cranes, yet not a single building is on the list. Either the standard of design is too low, or there is a squeamishness about including corporate behemoths or the ubiquitous ‘luxury housing.’”

Oliver Wainwright, The Guardian

Wainright relishes in the “refreshing…wave of new names” included in this year’s shortlist and identifies the favorite as Niall McLaughlin’s Bishop Edward King Chapel. On the critical disagreement surrounding the use of color in Park Hill Estate, he offers that it “shows an intelligent reworking of an ailing megastructure that could be transferred elsewhere. He seems less convinced by Alison Brooks’ Newhall Be, which provides more generous interior spaces than the typical suburban home, but at the cost of an exterior that feels “compromised.” He ultimately concludes that it will “come down to a choice between the pristine architect’s architecture of McLaughlin’s chapel, and the intelligent pragmatism of Brooks’s housing, both of which benefited from unusually enlightened clients,” even though he’d opt for Grafton’s campus based on its “power of place-making.”

Jay Merrick, The Independent

The Independent’s Jay Merrick signals that this year is different from most in that the selection is “modest” when compared to projects that have previously taken home the honor. While a step in the right direction (in terms of approaching an understanding of “good architecture” in a wider sense), he says, “The buildings on the shortlist are all admirable, but they gloss over the fact that the designs of the vast majority of the hundreds of thousands of buildings that have gone up in Britain in the last decade are architecturally mediocre.” He points out that the majority of British citizens live in housing that would not ever be considered Stirling-prize worthy (out of the prizes awarded by the RIBA in a given year, general housing enjoys lower recognition than other typologies). And this is a fact that is unlikely to change since housing is “a sector characterised by take-the-money-and-run design, room sizes that are the smallest in Europe, Britons stampeding to buy £1m worth of air fresheners a day, and an annual construction shortfall of more than 100,000 homes every year.”

Cite: Quirk, Vanessa. "Critical Round-Up: Reactions to the Stirling Prize Shortlist" 23 Jul 2013. ArchDaily. Accessed 23 Nov 2014. <http://www.archdaily.com/?p=405866>
  • John H

    James Stirling not Sterling!