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Stirling Prize 2001: seven to fight it out

NEWS

Seven buildings, representing the widest range of architectural skills, will contest the 2001 RIBA Stirling Prize, sponsored by The Architects' Journal.

The seven, chosen following a series of visits to a longer list by the RIBA Awards Group, are being visited this week and next by the Stirling Prize jury.

Details and images of the shortlisted projects are below and are available at www. ajplus. co. uk The schemes are: the Eden Project; Magna Centre; The Lawns, the National Portrait Gallery Extension; The Surgery; Portcullis House and Westminster Underground Station; and the British Embassy in Berlin. The contending projects cover the widest range of subjects and practice types in the history of the award, ranging from Gold Medallist Michael Hopkins to two new practices, Guy Greenfield Architects and Eldridge Smerin. Lottery projects are well represented, with one international contender, Michael Wilford, a previous winner for another German building, the music centre in Stuttgart.

RIBA awards chair Ian Davidson instantly defended what was a tough decision to include Michael Hopkins & Partners' controversial Portcullis House building in Westminster - dubbed the most expensive office block in Britain. 'There was a very intense and passionate debate with clearly strong opinions in both directions', he said. 'But it's an important civic building of demonstrable quality and we may only come to appreciate its quality perhaps 100 years down the line.'

Head of awards Tony Chapman added that the £235 million building was a significant piece of architecture, worthy of being assessed for the main award, while 'overspending' in the profession was 'unfortunately not an uncommon problem'.

When approved in 1992, the building was expected to cost £165 million. But inflation and delays in construction led to the total costs exceeding £235 million - more than £1 million per MP housed there. It also caused the National Audit Office to investigate elements like the £30 million which went on bronze cladding and £10 million on legal wrangles. 'You can't blame architecture for that, ' said Davidson. 'Did the project go over budget or did the client spend more than they should?'

But while the Hopkins office will celebrate this week, previous winner Stephen Hodder will be dismayed - his National Wildflower Centre in Liverpool was rejected by the judges. The £1.7 million sculptured inhabited wall was the nearest of those not making the final seven. 'Judges felt it was a good piece of architecture let down by the build, ' said Chapman. 'Its built quality was disappointing.'

The judges also rejected from its 'mid-list' Ushida Findlay's Pool House; Patel Taylor's Thames Barrier Park; and O'Donnell and Tuomey's Connemara West Furniture College, in Letterfrack, County Galway, Ireland.

THE EDEN PROJECT, Bodelva, St Austell, Cornwall: Nicholas Grimshaw and Partners The famous, Lottery-assisted £57 million scheme to build a showcase for global biodiversity in a Cornish clay pit using eight ETFE-clad biomes and including a link building and visitor centre. A real contender to walk off with the £20,000 grand prize. Only downside is the legal battle with architect Jonathan Ball.

AJ Building Study: (22.2.01) Bookies' odds 2/1

NATIONAL PORTRAIT GALLERY EXTENSION, London:

Dixon.Jones The £13.2 million job to improve circulation and add two new galleries, a lecture theatre and public rooftop restaurant.Has its admirers amongst the judges, and the initial awards jury admired its 'cool majesty', immaculate detailing and use of materials throughout. Could be an outsider for the top award.

AJ Building Study: (4.5.01) Bookies' odds 7/2

MAGNA CENTRE, Rotherham:

Wilkinson Eyre Architects The £37.2 million millennium project conversion of a former steelworks including two 350mlong bays making up a cathedral-like shed. Pavilions in the scheme represent the four elements - earth, air, fire and water. Another major Lottery success, with a strong regional 'message'and a likely contender as one of the shortlist's heavyweights.

AJ Building Study: (5.4.01) Bookies' odds 4/1

PORTCULLIS HOUSE AND WESTMINSTER STATION, London: Michael Hopkins & Partners A total of £255 million was spent on the building for 210 MPs and new station on the Jubilee Line. Awards chair Ian Davidson called it 'an extraordinary synthesis of complex architectural, structural and environmental solutions, which have been achieved in a design of integrity.' Outsider.

AJ Building Study: (3.2.00) Bookies' odds 5/1

THE SURGERY,1 Hammersmith Bridge Road, London W6: Guy Greenfield Architects £1.2 million scheme next to Hammersmith flyover sheltering its occupants in a curving white sculptural facade.A well-regarded first building on a difficult site with the involvement of three client bodies.Could be a surprise package but thought to be long-shot for the main prize.

Judges felt it was let down by poor detailing.

Bookies' odds 11/2

BRITISH EMBASSY, Berlin, Germany: Michael Wilford & Partners A PFI project making the RIBA's premier shortlist.

Trademark colourful touches with a winter garden forming the heart of the building with conference rooms and offices arranged around it.A key project abroad by Stirling's expartner, who has already clinched the building of the year award from the RFAC Trust for The Lowry in Salford.

Bookies' odds 13/2

THE LAWNS,16 South Grove, London N6: Eldridge Smerin A £1.1 million reworking of a 1950s Leonard Manasseh house for identity consultants Frances Newell and John Sorrell. The judges felt that it is a domestic project which may prove inspirational to clients to confront the challenges of the UK planning process. 'Immaculately detailed', with a discreet use of high quality materials - but a rank outsider.

Bookies' odds 8/1

STIRLING PRIZE AWARDS DINNER

Book now for the RIBA Stirling Prize Gala Awards dinner, in association with the AJ.

The event, at Foster's Great Court of the British Museum on 20 October, will comprise a champagne reception and dinner. Awards will also be announced for :

AJ/Robin Ellis Design Build First Building Award Stephen Lawrence Prize RIBA Client of the Year RIBA Journal Sustainability Award Crown Estate Conservation Award Adapt Trust Access Award Tickets cost £130 (£1,300 per table of 10) including drinks.

Contact Nancy Mills, RIBA, Tel 0121 233 2531; e-mail Nancy.Mills@member. riba. org

STIRLING NUMBER CRUNCHING

Of the seven schemes, four are in London. However, no buildings from Scotland, Wales or Northern Ireland made the cut. Barring the Wilford embassy scheme, whose costs are 'unknown' the total cost of the buildings on the shortlist is £364.7 million. . . Sterling.

Despite having more RIBA award winners than anyone else (with four), Patel Taylor missed out on the shortlist, but was understood to be close with its Thames Barrier Park project - the £12.5 million scheme it designed with Groupe Signes and Arup.

Hopkins'strike rate was better - it won three awards nationally, while Wilkinson Eyre (Magna) and Michael Wilford and Partners (Berlin Embassy) each scooped two.

The final judging session will take place in October, prior to the awards dinner.

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