Architecture is back in its traditional place in gallery VI this year, after two years elsewhere following the ra fire of 1997, writes Paul Finch. It is good to see it in the big room beyond the Octagon, and especially good to see so much high-quality work. Better economic conditions and thus more buildings are one reason for this, and almost certainly explain the number of models on display, a real tribute to the model-maker's craft. In particular three by A-models for Will Alsop are impressive; one for a proposed Hanover Expo pavilion was shortlisted for the ra Charles Wollaston award.
The judges for this year's aj/Bovis awards enjoyed their evening's work and found much to commend and even dispute. They were Ted Cullinan, representing the ra, Bovis Europe md John Anderson, last year's Grand Award winner James Burland (Arup Associates), services consultant Tim Battle and your correspondent.
There is much to catch the eye: it would be impossible to mention everything that found favour with the judges. Andrew Wright's model and print of his Bilston regeneration project was striking, as befits a previous Grand Award winner, while Rail Link Engineering and Union Rail North provided beautifully detailed drawings of St Pancras Station - regeneration projects of a rather different kind. There was praise for the different drawing styles of the John Miller and Allies and Morrison offices, and for the understated refinement of Jeremy Dixon and Ed Jones' Royal Opera House. A striking contrast was provided by Gordon Murray and Alan Dunlop's charcoal- and-ink drawings of their Scottish parliament building entry, and by Gordon Benson's photographs of the Benson & Forsyth Museum of Scotland.
Three exquisite Ian Ritchie images of his Dublin Spike and Bermondsey Station won much praise, as did Mira Esposito's memorial park for civilians killed in World War II. We also liked a work on the same theme by Nick Morgan. Michael Gold's library/theatre project was nicely executed, as was a trio of hand-coloured cartoons by the aj's own Louis Hellman, and Birds Portchmouth Russum's Humberstone Gate scheme for Leicester.
On the models front, there were admiring comments for too many to mention. Nicholas Grimshaw's Bath Spa sketch model won praise, as did the smaller of Zaha Hadid's Mind Zone models, Marco Goldschmied's study for the Montevetro building, M3 Architects' Citygate Ecotower, and Benson & Forsyth's Welsh parliament building competition entry.
And so to the award winners. First another excellent set of student pieces. Last year's prize-winners Julian and Cari-Jane Hakes again pleased the judges with fine drawings. Two pieces by Helen Stratford found favour, as did work by Gihan Karunaratne and Philip Clarke. But the winner by unanimous choice was David Westgarth, for his model of a scheme to convert a Dublin power station into the Great Hall of Gluttony inspired by a painting by Hieronymous Bosch.
The Special Award, in the gift of last year's Grand Award winner James Burland, went to the artist Martin McGinn for his evocative acrylic of the (Joseph) Beuys Room at Berlin's Hamburg Station, the eerie beauty of which impressed all the judges. More contentious was the Design Award, made for the best drawing, model or graphic representation, not least because of the wide choice. The nearest the judges came to unanimity resulted in victory for Laurie Chetwood of Chetwood Associates, whose model for the Butterfly House in Surrey was a delightful combination of form and structure.
The Non-Members Award, for work by a non-Academician, is for excellent design which communicates to the public. Again the judges were spoiled for choice. After considerable discussion, the award went to the cad image of the proposed Metsovo Bridge in Greece, by Chris Wilkinson Architects, a virtuoso piece of work which cannot fail to impress.
The Grand Award was a relatively easy decision once we decided to amalgamate three separate pieces, all related to the same building, but curiously not hung together. The building is the new Reichstag, the architect Foster & Partners. Design excellence to be sure, but what impressed the judges was the way the three images, each produced using different media, gave the clearest indication of the techniques by which architects conceive and develop their designs. The most striking of them, because of its simplicity, is the concept sketch for the dome of the building (a photoprint - it would be good to see the original). Then comes a wonderful ink-on-film section through the plenary building, and finally a digital print of a panoramic view of the dome.
All in all a very good year for architecture at the ra. It is great to have design back at the heart of the show.