Last week we had the RIBA Awards, this week we have our very own AJ/Bovis Royal Academy Awards. Students are setting their sights on the Silver Medal, and those embarking on their year out will have read the sample pages in their logbook and realised that they are meant to litter their entries with comments like 'Interesting project this.Could be up for a Civic Trust Award!'
The pressure to win awards is always with us, and all too often architects start winning them once they have ceased to matter. Doubtless Sandy Wilson and Lord Rogers were happy enough to be honoured in this year's Royal Academy Awards, but it is hardly going to alter the course of their careers.
This makes it particularly disappointing that no student work was selected for the Summer Exhibition 2000. Awards received at the beginning of a career can make a difference, if only to offer talented and ambitious students a means of distinguishing their CVs from the sea of seemingly identical candidates swamping the job market at this time of year.
But practising architects should be able to distinguish themselves by the quality of their work. And awards should be a means of recognising excellence as opposed to boosting individual careers. If this is the case, the rush to give plaudits to a building while the architect is still flavour of the month is a little unseemly.
Perhaps we should concentrate on identifying the best buildings of say 10 or 20 years ago.
Teething problems may mean that the Millennium Bridge has forfeited its right to many prizes which must have seemed inevitable. But in 10 years' time it may well be judged to have been the most significant project of the millennium year.
Architectural history is littered with lauded buildings which failed to win awards from their peers: the Smithsons' Hunstanton School in the 50s; YRM and SOM's Boots headquarters in the 60s; Patrick Hodgkinson's Brunswick Centre in the 70s; van Heyningen and Haward's Newnham Rare Books Library in the 80s. So those who were overlooked in the regional awards can take heart. Posterity might not be so harsh.