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editorial

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Magna's legacy: all change on the Stirling front?

Having recovered from the initial euphoria, Wilkinson Eyre must be just a little bemused that it should finally scoop the Stirling Prize for this highly uncharacteristic project. This is a firm which can be credited with having transformed current architectural practice. Firstly, by having established bridges as architectural territory and not simply the preserve of the engineer. Secondly, by exemplifying the philosophy that designing big buildings is not simply a case of scaling up, but a distinct discipline in its own right. Magna does neither. It is vast, of course, but Wilkinson Eyre's contribution is essentially a series of discrete interventions and associated circulation - a far cry from the rigorous, repetitive elegance of, say, Stratford Market Depot.

The fact that Magna hit the Stirling jackpot may say something about the policy of making the previous year's winner a member of the jury.Will Alsop's much-hyped fondness for all things jolly and bright must have been a significant factor, just as Amanda Levete's presence on last year's jury probably contributed to Peckham Library's success. Magna seems an appropriate successor to Lord's Media Centre and Peckham Library and, with the wisdom of hindsight, it seems somehow more appropriate that Grimshaw's Eden Project - undoubtedly brilliant but rather more sedate - was proclaimed Best Major Project at the British Construction Industry Awards last night.

Wessex Water, which failed to make it to the Stirling shortlist, was announced as BCIA Building of the Year, while Tate Modern, barred from entering the Stirling Prize on the basis that its architects are not RIBA members, won the Prime Minister's Award for Better Public Buildings.

Clearly there are different agendas at play. The fact that either Chris Wilkinson or Jim Eyre will join the Stirling Prize jury in 2002 may break the pattern of the past three years and bring the two awards more in line.

Where Lord's epitomised Future Systems'work and Peckham Library was Alsop through and through, Magna gives a misleading impression of the Wilkinson Eyre oeuvre. Ironically for Grimshaw, Eden's elegant engineering and visionary scale are exactly the qualities which Wilkinson Eyre admires.

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