Chair of RIBA’s awards group says good schemes could be overlooked
The decision to cut the number of RIBA awards handed out this year has been criticised by the chair of the institute’s awards group.
Deborah Saunt, who has now completed her two-year stint in charge of the panel, was responding to claims by RIBA head of awards Tony Chapman that it was easier to win an RIBA award than a decade ago.
Last week the institute handed out 59 awards, nearly the same number as in 2002, compared with 97 last year.
Saunt told BD: “I personally don’t agree it’s been too easy. It’s never been easy to get an RIBA award, ever. I don’t think there is anything wrong with a large number [of winners].”
She added: “Within the RIBA executive there was a perception that they [the awards] were too inclusive. But if something’s good, then great. If you close it down too tightly, maybe some schemes could get overlooked.”
The RIBA Awards group also includes Design Council Cabe director Paul Finch and Allies & Morrison co-founder Bob Allies, with Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios’ Peter Clegg to take over as chair in 2013.
Saunt’s comments were echoed by AHMM director Paul Monaghan, who has sat on RIBA Awards panels previously.
He said: “I have first-hand experience that confirms that the awards remain the most rigorously judged building awards in the country, where the emphasis is on visiting buildings rather than looking at photographs.”
This year was the first time practices could enter projects for the RIBA Awards and the RIBA Regional Awards simultaneously — a split that Monaghan said devalued the regional awards.
The shortlist for the Stirling Prize will be drawn from the 59-strong longlist and is due to be announced next month.
“The main difference this year is that there a lot fewer iconic projects,” added Saunt. “A lot more modest buildings have got awards.”
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