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Battle of Stirling

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War and destruction are themes that appear to unite this year's shortlist for the Stirling Prize, reported on our news pages this week. The Second World War is directly connected to two of the six: Danny Libeskind's Imperial War Museum building in Salford, and Richard MacCormac's art and architecture urban design exercise in central Coventry, bombed to smithereens and only now recovering from previous post-war attempts to put it right. But then we turn to the deconstruction activities of the IRA in more recent times, and find another two Stirling finalists directly connected. First is Ian Ritchie's 'Spire' scheme in Dublin, replacing the old Nelson's Column (blown up by the IRA) opposite the post office where the Irish revolution began in 1916. Second is Norman Foster's headquarters for Swiss Re, made possible by the IRA bomb that removed a large chunk of the listed Baltic Exchange on the site. Subsequently the then-chairman of English Heritage, Jocelyn Stevens, backed the radical 'gherkin' design rather than a simple replacement. If Swiss Re wins, incidentally, who would collect the award? Virtually the entire design team - including Robin Partington, Ken Shuttleworth et al - has moved since (or before) its completion.

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