Stirling contender: David Adjaye’s Whitechapel Idea Store
Central awards committee added Idea Store to RIBA Award list and overrode other nominations
David Adjaye’s Idea Store, a surprise entry on this year’s Stirling Prize shortlist, was not nominated for an RIBA Award by the local jury, but added on to the final list by the central awards committee.
The regional jury, which included architect Annalie Riches of Riches Hawley Mikhail and Icon editor Marcus Fairs, did not believe the Idea Store met the required standard for an RIBA Award — the prerequisite for any Stirling contender.
It wanted to give an award to a scheme by Prewett Bizley, but the central awards committee refused, saying it could be re-entered next year. Speaking of the scheme, a jury member said: “It did not look much from the outside but when we went in we were blown away... It was very clever and compact.”
The committee also insisted on adding Peter Barber’s Donnybrook, which one jury member described as “appallingly detailed and built”, and Surface architects’ Lock-Keeper’s Graduate Centre, which was described as “average,” to the list, infuriating the jury.
“I’m not entirely happy with the way the thing is run,” said chair of RIBA London and member of the jury Andrew Hanson. “We ask people to give up a lot of their time and then these decisions are just overturned. The situation is not perfect and I think the RIBA needs to look at it.”
When a jury member complained to the RIBA’s head of awards, Tony Chapman, he explained it was within the rules to add or to take off buildings the jury had visited.
One jury member said: “When we spoke to the RIBA about it, all our points were batted away. It really is a scandal.” Another member described the process as an “outrage”.
Graham Bizley took missing out on an award with equanimity. “I’m not annoyed about it. The awards are subjective,” he said. “The house is about experiencing a carefully scaled sequence of spaces and a rich material quality. The judges who recommended it for an award visited the house; the panel that overruled the recommendation didn’t.”
Chapman said he was “entirely happy” with the awards that had been given. He admitted the situation in east London was “exceptional” because the chair of the regional jury, John Lyall, was off sick, “so there was not one consistent, strong chair throughout”.
He added: “The original jury makes recommendations, it doesn’t have the power to grant awards.”
The RIBA prides itself on having one of the few awards schemes where every building is visited by a jury. They talk to clients and users and assess the design irrespective of the style, size or complexity of the project.