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Architects attack 'inequitable' RIAS Awards process

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Architects in Scotland have slammed the RIAS ‘one stop shop’ award entry system claiming it is inconsistent with the rest of the country and promotes ease ‘at the expense of the integrity’

The Scottish institute, which became the gatekeeper for both its own accolades and the RIBA awards last year, currently demands only five photographs and 500 words with submissions.

The more rigorous RIBA, however, insists on 12 images plus eight plans, elevations and sections, as well as a PDF visual summary of the project and a text description.

An angry Richard Murphy, whose practice has won 19 RIBA awards over the last two decades said: ‘I was a huge fan of the RIBA awards scheme. It was completely equitable across all regions.’

‘But the RIBA has recently made a mess of this [system] by doing a deal with the RIAS so that different rules apply on different sides of the border.

He added: ‘Members of the RIBA in Scotland weren’t consulted about this and I see no reason why we should be treated differently. Every architect I have spoken to here is horrified at what the RIBA has agreed to.

‘If the RIAS wants to have some local award scheme all well and good. But not at the expense of the integrity and UK universality of the RIBA scheme.’ 

Thea McMillan of Chambers McMillan and the joint architect behind the recently completed Ramp House in Edinburgh (AJ 09.03.2013) which missed out on award, agreed:

She said: ‘I find it hard to see how [the RIAS] can provide a thorough judging process to produce a shortlist, when they have no understanding of how a building works spatially. For example, our wheelchair accessible family home, the Ramp House, is a series of spaces that unfold along a ramp, providing a barrier free environment. This would be very difficult to understand without architectural drawings and models.

McMillan added: ‘Secondly, as RIAS are the gatekeepers to the RIBA national awards, the Doolan awards, and the Stirling Prize, it would seem essential that there is equity of judging with the other RIBA regions. I’d have thought it crucial that the submission and the information requested had the same scope in all regions.’

Incoming RIBA president Stephen Hodder has vowed to talk to the RIAS about the perceived inconsistencies between the awards processes.

He said: ‘The ‘one stop shop’ is working very well everywhere else, even within RSUA…there is no reason to reverse the process.

[But] clearly it makes absolute sense that if the RIAS Awards move on to be considered for RIBA National Awards, there needs to be a consistency and rigour of process. I will be raising the matter with incoming RIAS President, Iain Connelly.’

Neil Baxter, secretary of the RIAS, hit back saying: ‘Our awards process is designed to be as easy as possible for entrants while providing enough material for the judges to judge. In 2011 the RIBA Awards in Scotland received 31 submissions. In 2012 we received 71 and this year that has risen to 75.

‘To date we’ve had no complaints from entrants who felt that five images [and there are no restriction on including plans] and 500 words were insufficient to present the merits of their scheme, nor any judge who felt they had insufficient information to draw conclusions.

He concluded: ‘I fully understand the frustration of the client those project was not shortlisted. [McMillan] can be assured that the process is fair and scrupulous.’

Architects attack 'inequitable' RIAS Awards process

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