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It's third time lucky for Wilkinson Eyre

Wilkinson Eyre's Magna (AJ 5.4.01) is the surprise winner of this year's AJ-sponsored Stirling Prize, beating Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners' Eden Project (AJ 22.2.01) - the bookies' favourite.

Unable to reach a consensus, the jury voted between Magna and Eden by secret ballot, with Magna winning by 3:2. There was, however, some consolation for Nicholas Grimshaw & Partners at the British Construction Industry Awards last night where the Eden Project picked up the prestigious Major Project Award.

This is the third year that Wilkinson Eyre has been on the Stirling shortlist - with Stratford Jubilee Line Station in 1999 and Stratford Market Depot in 1997.

Both Magna and Eden have had a troubled history. Peter Clash, of Clash Associates, claimed that elements of his work were involved in the design process of Magna, and that, subsequently, he was given no credit for his work. However, he was pleased that the project won and for the positive effect it would have on the Rotherham area.

'I wish them good luck, ' said Clash. 'We did put a lot of work into the [Magna] project, a massive amount of work in the year we were on it. It would have been nice to have some acknowledgement for all of those involved.'

However, Chris Wilkinson responded by stating that Wilkinson Eyre had replied to an advert in the OJEC and was not aware of any of Clash's work that was part of the Wilkinson Eyre designs.

'We've had no dialogue with Peter Clash. We won the project following an OJEC advertisement and then we designed the project, starting with a clean slate, ' he said this week.

Eden has also had its problems. The original client, Jonathan Ball, was at the centre of a disagreement with the project which led to an ongoing legal dispute. In an interim judgment Ball was instructed by the High Court to hand his claim to intellectual copyright on the idea of the project to the Eden Project Ltd (AJ 19.4.01). However, Ball was invited to the award ceremony as a guest of Eden architect Nicholas Grimshaw.

Ball said he was disappointed that Eden did not win the Stirling award, but was not dismayed:

'Good luck to Rotherham. I hope Magna does for Rotherham what Eden has done for Cornwall. It's given Cornwall a global standing.'

THE JUDGING HOW THEY VOTEDà Here's how the judges voted in the final showdown between the Eden Project and Magna. . .

Paul Finch Eden Marco Goldschmied Magna Alice Rawsthorn Eden Janet Street-Porter Magna Will Alsop Magna MAGNA: WHAT THEY SAIDà 'Rarely does an architect get to work on a project of such vast scale as the reworking of an abandoned steelworks. The architects have responded with both suitably gigantic gestures, but also an attention to detail in the exhibition areas which combines a necessary robustness with invention and surprise. The integration of architecture, exhibition and highly effective lighting design is relatively seamless so that visitors oscillate between the compact educational experiences of fire, earth, water and air pavilions and revealed fragments of the vastness of the old steelworks.

'Photographs cannot convey the feeling of being inside. The drama of being a small person within a vast black space, relieved by gashes of red light, sheets of flame and spots of white light, has to be experienced.

'Wilkinson Eyre's great achievement, supported by inspired lighting design, has been to allow the existing building to speak for itself and to tell its own history.

'The result has the obvious rightness that can only be achieved by an inspired and experienced team working with a single-minded client who supported them.'

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