Last week, at a glittering ceremony in the Balmoral Hotel in Edinburgh, 150 architects and their clients gathered to hear who had won the Andrew Doolan Award. The £25,000 prize is Britain's biggest cash bonus, and is awarded to the best building in Scotland.
A long shortlist, or was it a short longlist, of 10 projects was selected for a visit by the jury, from the 33 or so submitted. Picking the winner was a tough choice, according to the RIAS president Douglas Read, but in the end the decision was unanimous and expected. Page\Park's Maggie's Centre in Inverness won it.
Highlight of the evening for me, though, was the scenesetting introduction by the new Lighthouse executive director Nick Barley. According to Nick there were, in that very room, as many as three, maybe even four architects who could probably be considered as world class. As there were six at our table, we were left wondering which of the other two were shite. Nick also praised his namesake Nick Serota as a man of great vision and was sure we'd all accept that Zaha Hadid's only built British building, another Maggie's Centre in Kirkaldy, was a great and innovative work. To a palpable groan, he finished by saying Scotland now is where London was in 1994. As it took me over an hour and a half to negotiate the eight miles through the Edinburgh traffic en route to the Balmoral, I knew what he meant. All in all, though, a strange opening to an award, whose very existence came from Andrew Doolan's desire to shift the London-centric nature of architecture awards in the UK.
We'll look forward now to a major Lighthouse exhibition on the work of Hadid as Barley's first initiative followed by a masterworks lecture tour by Nick Serota. Oh, goody.
After the meal, I made my excuses and went looking for a set of curtains to burn.
Alan Dunlop, gm+ad, by email