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Influence takes time to prove

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editorial

A difficulty about architectural prizes is the attention a jury pays to the condition. Sometimes the connection between the name of the prize and its function is obscure. (It is not immediately apparent why Stephen Lawrence's name has been attached to the small projects category of the riba Awards. A more appropriate use should be made of the generous funding provided to commemorate his tragic death - for example, student scholarships.) Sometimes the terms of prizes are more honoured in the breach than the observance. For example, the Stirling Prize is supposed to go to a building which has made the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year.

This presents problems, since it requires a building to be not merely a piece of exemplary architecture, but something that will have an effect which has yet to be identified. Of course, there are some buildings that you suspect will be highly influential (if that is the same thing as making a contribution) - like the early, best, Post-Modern buildings - but which for some reason fail to attract critical acclaim, at least in Britain. Other ideas (compulsory deck-access mega-estates for the poor) find acclaim, to be followed shortly by derision.

If you ask experienced architects what buildings have influenced them most, it is unlikely to be something finished last week, last year or even this decade. Moreover, many architects are not particularly self- reflective about their own work, and it may take critics or historians to see strands of thinking and/or development which relate to the work of other architects working at different times. This is not, by the way, a criticism of the Stirling Prize, which I hope will go from strength to strength. It is to warn against assumptions about the future. I would like to see an award for buildings (and architectural ideas) which can be demonstrated to have been influential in a beneficial way - as long as I don't have to sit on the jury.

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