Abundance of quality in this year's RA awards
The judges for this year's AJ/Bovis Royal Academy Architecture Awards were very impressed by the general standard of exhibits in this year's summer show. The room was nicely hung and the height at which the many models were shown worked well. As usual, we followed a simple procedure: the judges walked the room individually, then collectively to establish a list of potential winners, and then once more to agree on winners and commendations.
This year, the judges comprised John Spanswick of Bovis, Will Alsop representing the RA, Isabel Allen representing the AJ, and Graham Stirk of Richard Rogers Partnership (last year's winner). The group was chaired by your correspondent.
The entries this year included material from two invited architects - Frank Gehry and Massimiliano Fuksas, which the judges admired but did not take into account in the awards selection. Various other international stars were represented, including Richard Rogers Partnership, whose Torre Espacio in Madrid impressed, and Foster and Partners, whose entries this year were both for new city academies. There were good entries from academicians including Ted Cullinan, Ian Ritchie, Richard MacCormac and Michael Manser.
Striking models included a large-scale version of KPF's Heron Tower, and the Manchester Stadium by Arup Associates. Two models won commendations in the main prize category for the best work in the show:
Christian Spencer-Davies of A Models, several of whose pieces were exhibited this year, won a commendation for an exquisite tiny metal model of Will Alsop's Rotterdam masterplan. And it was a model of a family house in Bavaria, also by Alsop, which won another commendation - by unanimous agreement of the jury, excluding the architect himself!
In the first-time exhibitor category, a commendation was awarded to John Avery's project for a theatre at Piccadilly Circus, a bravura piece of design very well presented.
Models won the two main prizes. The first, for the best piece of work in the show - worth £10,000 - went to Birds Portchmouth Russum (BPR) for its competition entry for the Bellmouth Bridges in Docklands (Eva Jiricna also exhibited a striking entry for the same competition).
The design is a swing bridge in which a lower level, including a cafe, moves as the entire bridge opens. The model has other visual information printed onto the plinth, making it an excellent combination of design and presentation that would give one confidence in the finished product. The engineer was Matthew Wells of Techniker. BPR has become well-known for its bridge designs, following the successful one for a school in Newham, east London, completed two years ago and also engineered by Techniker.
In the first-time category, the award went to the delightful Village Strategy Model, St Luke's, London, by Springett Mackay Architecture, a relatively new firm operating from London. The model suggests uses and activities at a variety of ground planes, and provides relief from the more serious models of real buildings surrounding it.
Given the high standard of the work selected for display, the only disappointment is that architecture continues to be shown in one of the more obscure rooms. It would be better if it could go back to its old prefire home behind the octagon. We shall see.