RIBA award judges rejected a scheme designed by incoming president Paul Hyett's firm, Ryder, and said that the standard was so low in the region in which it was submitted that no award could be given last week.
Now Hyett is looking to reduce the costs of entering to encourage more architects across the country to put their buildings forward.
The institute made 49 awards across England and four from Europe but decided that none of the crop submitted in the northern region, which includes Durham, Tyne and Wear, Cleveland and Northumberland, were up to scratch.
Ryder submitted its designs for the Three Rivers Housing Association offices in Durham, but was rebuffed by jury chair for the north Richard Murphy, and lay assessor and CABE chief executive Jon Rouse.
Murphy, who also chaired the jury for the Yorkshire region, which gave three awards, said it was 'just a dull year' in the northern area. It was 'unfortunate', he said, but far preferable to making a token award.
'You feel a bit churlish when you don't give an award. But we've got to have a sense of consistency around the country and didn't want to give a nominal award. It's no surprise, but some years the planets just don't align.'
Hyett stressed he had not sought to affect the jury's decision when he found out the Ryder building had not made the cut from a shortlist of four, but said he was very glad the Ryder scheme, 'a very good design' and the first of its kind to be put forward as an example of best practice in the Movement for Innovation, was shortlisted. 'I don't take it as a slight, ' he said. Only last week the low-energy building won the County Durham Environmental award (AJ 21 June).
Now Hyett is concerned for the wider picture - that not enough people are entering their schemes for RIBA awards. 'I do not believe there is no building in the Northern region worthy of an award, ' Hyett told the AJ. 'The fee may be denying the jurors the opportunity to see worthy schemes. I think the fee needs to be challenged and I'd like to look at it.' Hyett believes the cost of putting an entry together - ranging from £70 for small schemes to almost £300 for those with a value of more than £5 million - may be deterring smaller practices from taking part.
Happily, next year the northern region should have some winners to look forward to.Wilkinson Eyre and Gifford and Partners' £22 million Millennium Bridge across the Tyne was not ready for this year's intake, but should figure prominently in next year's crop, as should Ellis Williams' rejuvenation of the Baltic Flour Mills on Tyneside, and Foster and Partners'Music Centre in Gateshead further down the line.
The 53 awards make up the longlist for the £20,000 Stirling Prize, which will be announced in October in a ceremony broadcast by Channel 4 on 21 October.
Patel Taylor scooped four RIBA awards, more than any other practice, beating Michael Hopkins and Partners, which scooped three. One of Hopkins' successes was the Faculty Building for the University of Nottingham, which made up for last year, when judges rejected the submission of the whole campus.
Double winners this time included previous Stirling Prize recipients Michael Wilford and Stephen Hodder, as well as Wilkinson Eyre and Urban Splash Architects.
Despite the institute's commitment to the regions and wishes to avoid charges of London-centricism, almost a quarter of the British awards stayed in the capital.
The winning schemes - the full list of which is on page 14 with further images at ajplus. co. uk - are also eligible for six further awards, including The Architects' Journal First Building Award - given to a first stand-alone building by a British architect practising in the European Union. And outgoing president Marco Goldschmied said he may enter the restoration of the Florence Hall at Portland Place for a conservation award next year.