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Big Fish - 13 December 2007

Are the right people judging architectural awards? wonders big fish John Prevc of Make.

I’ve recently attended a number of design award ceremonies. This got me wondering, how are awards decided? And should it be professionals or the people using the buildings who have the casting vote?

I recently had an insight into the awards process when I was invited to judge the biennial Coventry Design Awards. My fellow judges included the councillor, the head of regeneration, several urban designers, an industrial-design professor from Coventry University, and a local newspaper hack. We spent a happy morning touring the shortlisted buildings; it’s fantastic that the city has decided to
showcase design excellence.

However, as we enthusiastically discussed the merits or otherwise of the schemes we had seen over lunch, we were told we wouldn’t be choosing the overall winner in the new building category. This would be decided by public vote. Apparently we weren’t up to the task of bestowing the ‘Best New Building’ honour.

After agreeing on the winners of the various other titles, we chose a project for the category t0 compare with the public’s choice. You can guess the following: our first was their last. In my opinion the public vote had little to do with design and probably more to do with effective lobbying. Is this a vote for good architecture?

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