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RITCHIE HAS THE WRONG IDEA ABOUT ADJAYE

LETTERS

I have to confess Ian Ritchie's published comment on David Adjaye's Idea Store made my blood boil (AJ 12.10.06). As a member of the Tower Hamlets selection panel which appointed David over, amongst others, Alsop, Hawkins\Brown and RHWL Architects, a few words in his defence are required.

'Perhaps a more mature architect?' oh come on Ian, since when was age one of the qualities to be judged in awarding the Stirling Prize? The insinuation behind this comment is clear and completely inappropriate. As a profession we should bend over backwards to support new blood and talent and not attempt to stigmatise youth.

The Idea Store Whitechapel is my favourite all time building. It isn't just because of Adjaye's inspired use of colour, light and shade, tools which he uses with his unusual skills, and which mark him out as one of our leading architects. But because the building is about real architecture. By that I mean it is architecture which works for society and the environment as a whole and not just to please a few architects.

The Idea Store programme set out with ambitious social and environmental goals. It aimed to create attractive, sustainable retail buildings in shopping parades to literally rebrand skills, learning and library services away from the archaic image of the 19th-century library. It aimed to use architecture as a tool to build new malls of learning amongst the high street brands - nothing less than the high ideals of Andrew Carnegie, who founded the Carnegie Library - the forerunner of public libraries - more than a century ago.

To undertake a critique within the narrow boundaries of space is to miss entirely the point of the agship Idea Store at Whitechapel, and it brings into question the validity of prizes like Stirling which aim to honour the best in architecture, completely ignoring its wider social and environmental impact.

The Mayor of London has recently banned thin models from a London Development Agency-supported fashion show - recognising the wider social impact of a narrow focus on beauty.

Perhaps the Stirling Prize should be issued with a government health warning given the potential damage it does to encourage the profession to obsess over beauty and ignore the vast impact architecture has on the sustainability (or not) of the planet.

Paul Latham, The Regeneration Practice

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