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RIBA Awards chief says Welsh architects must raise their game

The RIBA’s head of awards has called on architects in Wales to raise their game after it emerged that the country has failed to win any national awards for two years running

Of the five projects which picked up regional gongs this year, which include Loyn & Co’s Stormy Castle (AJ 13.06.14) and the Wales Gold Medal-nominated Copper Kingdom by Donald Insall, not one has been awarded a RIBA National Award.

Last year, Welsh schemes that were tipped to win, including John Pardey’s Welsh Gold Medal-winning Trewarren House, Hyde & Hyde’s Copper House and a primary school by Architype, also missed out.

RIBA head of awards Tony Chapman said: ‘The RIBA can’t award anything to a region if the quality isn’t there. There are plenty of other awards which do this; but if it is the case that Wales didn’t win anything, then people in Wales need to look at addressing this in the future.’

But Welsh architects rejected the notion that there is a lack of quality in the country. Pardey said: ‘Something feels very wrong here. I really don’t get it. Standing against the flood of houses in the South-East which have made the national list, Loyn & Co’s amazing Stormy Castle would knock most of them over. Architecture is largely urban, but there is life outside [the city].’

Pat Borer, whose WISE Building at the Centre for Alternative Technology in Machynlleth won an RIBA Award in 2011, said he was shocked at the findings. He said: ‘Perhaps it is more of a reflection of the narrow conventional focus of the RIBA Awards than that Wales cannot produce architecture of worth.’

Further comments:

Mary Wrenn, director, Royal Society of Architects in Wales (RSAW)

‘RSAW obviously respects the decision of the jury and we warmly congratulate all the 2014 winners in other parts of the UK. Naturally, we are disappointed that the award-winning projects in Wales - which have all delivered stunning results in sometimes challenging situations - didn’t make it through to the national awards.

‘The criteria for regional awards is to make ‘an important contribution to architecture’; while the guidance for national winners is to make ‘a significant contribution to architecture’. RSAW would welcome a more open debate about the distinction between these two standards and we would like to see far more detailed guidance for juries in next year’s awards process.’

John Pardey, founder, John Pardey Architects

‘The more I think about the National RIBA Awards in Wales, or lack of them, the more vexed I become. Something feels very wrong here.

‘Last year, when our ‘Trewarren House’ did not get through to the nationals, I just thought, ‘well there you go, it’s probably the best house we have done yet, but let’s move on’– yet it did move on, to win the Welsh Gold Medal for Architecture!

‘Of course, to complain would be seen as either a misplaced ego or a bad-loser, yet this year, with a house of the quality of Chris Lyon’s amazing ‘Stormy Castle’, I really don’t get it. Stand this house against the inevitable flood of houses in the south east which have made the national list, and it would knock most of them over.

‘When I left London many years ago to work in the deep south, most of my urban architect colleagues told me I was committing professional suicide – and it’s true it did take about ten years to get the workload back – but that at least made me teach and keep fresh, but I did not change. It’s not where you are, it’s where you are at, that counts.

‘Inevitably, architecture remains largely an urban profession, but there is life outside in the dark skies of suburbia and leafy lanes. Stormy Castle is proof, yet its architect must content himself with a regional award. Let’s hope it goes on to win the Gold Medal – in Wales.’

Pat Borer, architect

‘I’m shocked that Wales has not received any RIBA Awards this year, especially considering that in recent years Wales has been producing some of the most innovative modern architecture in terms of genuinely sustainable materials and construction.

‘Perhaps it is more of a reflection of the narrow conventional focus of the RIIBA Awards than that Wales cannot produce architecture of worth.’

Readers' comments (1)

  • I had the privilege to be on the Design Commission for Wales panel that reviewed Stormey Castle before it was given planning permission. The concept, presentation including Chris Loyn's evocative watercolour sketches, attention to detail and setting in the landscape bowled us over. From the photographs it is clear that Chris has held on to his concept and achieved a remarkable place in the landscape. If there is any justice it would be a national award winner.

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