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Hold the headlines...

They say that today's front-page news is tomorrow's fish-and-chip paper, but there were some stories in 2004 that ran and ran. Ed Dorrell casts his eye over these serial headline-makers and speculates about the year ahead

Perhaps the most staggering story of the year was the failure rate at the University of Central England's (UCE) school of architecture. While the wider problems with architectural education had already cropped up throughout the year, there's nothing like a 93 per cent failure rate to bring the crisis into focus. The immediate problems have been resolved with an internal report into the causes and, later, with the university's decision to keep the school open. But who knows which schools may follow suit come results time next year?

Further analysis on page 14.

The last 12 months have seen the dispute over Stephen Hodder's Clissold Leisure Centre in Hackney, north London, grow to extraordinary proportions. While, in previous years, Hodder has seemed happy to sit back and take the endless abuse, 2004 has seen a fightback from the Manchester-based architect. Although the seemingly endless legal dispute over repairing the building's problems promises to stretch well into next year, some indicators suggest that the news for Hodder may not be all bad.

The dismal state of architectural education was confirmed this year when, following the UCE disaster, it emerged that the University of Cambridge was not only going to shut down its diploma course but had also decided that the whole school should go.

Trigger one of the biggest architectural campaigns of recent times with students, academics, CABE and the RIBA all involved.

There has been little in the way of firm news recently, but gossip suggests that early 2005 might prove enjoyable for all those who have worked so hard to keep the school open.

The issues surrounding the ARB, in-house rebel Ian Salisbury, and its less-than-friendly relationship with the RIBA have continued throughout 2004. While the issues are complicated and many stories emerge couched in bureaucratic lingo, the future of the board is important to every architect.

If Salisbury and his supporters get their way, the ARB's very existence could soon be in doubt. However, the board's latest chair, Humphrey Lloyd, and registrar Robin Vaughan remain committed to their path, so the only certainty seems to be more conflict.

If there was one philosophical issue to emerge time and again over the course of the last 12 months, it was the Great Icons Debate. Triggered by the AJ in its first issue of the year (AJ 8.1.04), the 'Icons vs Context' argument has raged on. Graham Morrison, founding partner of Allies and Morrison, fanned the flames at the AJ/Bovis Summer Awards with his now famous speech, 'The Trouble with Icons', and Piers Gough, with typical flamboyancy, responded in these pages. Do not expect this one to go away in 2005.

It must have been a good year for Frei Otto, the German architect behind many of the world's most well-known tensile structures, who won the RIBA Gold Medal, and our very own Zaha Hadid (pictured), who became the first woman to pick up the Pritzker Prize.

This has been some year for arguably the most famous architect in the world, Norman Foster. At the turn of 2004, seemingly every know-it-all in the architectural world was speculating that his lordship might be in trouble following the departure of Ken 'the Pen' Shuttleworth to form one of this year's most high-profile firms, Make. But they were wrong - and how. With not one, but two buildings on the Stirling shortlist, including the eventual winner 30 St Mary Axe, it became increasingly clear that Foster was still at the top of his game. As we approach this year's festive season, two more Foster icons - Gateshead's Sage Music Centre and the Millau Viaduct in south France - are opening. Foster is still very much with us - and the doomsayers have gone quiet. Do not expect anything to change in the next 12 months - Foster and Partners still recruits much of the best graduate talent and still wins many of the most important jobs.

This past 12 months will go down as the year when the great Holyrood debacle finally reached its crescendo. With the costs continuing to escalate, the Fraser Report into all that went wrong and then, finally, the grand opening, Enric Miralles and RMJM's great building was rarely far from the headlines. While things have gone quiet on the subject recently, there will be more to come next year - expect a final construction figure of £500 million to emerge and yet more snagging stories in the Scottish press.

However, positive coverage can also be expected, with many predicting that the most controversial British building since the Millennium Dome will pick up a place on the Stirling shortlist.

The PPG 7 campaign to save the British country house tradition was an intrinsic part of the first half of the year. Success came with a phone call from planning minister Keith Hill to inform AJ staff personally that the government had carried out a U-turn and decided to retain a version of the clause.

'The AJ should be very proud of its campaign, ' the minister said.

Almost no one could have guessed at the end of last year just how bad 2004 would be for CABE. With a full audit of conflicts of interest, the departure of high-profile chair Stuart Lipton (pictured) and the unrelated decision of chief executive Jon Rouse to leave for the Housing Corporation, the last 12 months have been, at best, a transitional period for the design watchdog. With the recent appointment of a new chair in the form of John Sorrell, 2005 ought to be a better year, but there will certainly be some tough questions on the way.

l Further analysis on page 12.

Earlier this year, Aukett, the only major listed architecture practice, became subject to a shareholder rebellion and a subsequent foreign takeover.

Then, last month, the firm admitted it was in takeover talks with Fitzroy Robinson.

To say 2004 has been difficult for the firm would be an understatement and the only thing guaranteed for next year is tough times ahead.

At the start of the year everything seemed rosy in the garden of Will Alsop. However, just one calendar year later, it really has all changed. Things started to go wrong with the collapse of the Fourth Grace project - which, despite mixed signals about its future, appeared to give the practice some guaranteed fee income - and culminated with Alsop Architects going belly up. While Alsop remains very definitely on the scene, due to the creation of Alsop and Partners, architecture's former enfant terrible will once again have to prove himself in 2004.

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