Former RIBA president Frank Duffy has launched a stinging attack on the Stirling Prize just days before UK architecture's biggest awards ceremony appears on national TV for the first time.
Duffy branded the £20,000 prize 'old fashioned' and claimed that it gives 'a superficial sheen' to the profession.
He also warned that the prize sets a bad example to young architects by encouraging them to aspire to the status of 'superstar architect'.
'The Stirling Prize introduces a degree of personalisation to architecture which isn't appropriate, ' he said.
'This star system has a disproportionate impact on architects, who see that this is the only way to fame. There are so many ways of being a good architect that get forgotten.'
More than one million TV viewers are expected to tune in to watch architecture's star names celebrate at the £100-a-ticket event at London's Science Museum. Will Alsop, Lord Rogers and Lord Foster are in the running for the prize alongside lesser-known architects such as Chetwood Associates and Caruso St John.
'It is a great tragedy that the way in which architecture is conducted at the moment has de-emphasised the social programme, 'Duffy said.He insisted that architects should be seen as 'social programmers' and said that his criterion for a good building is whether design innovation is matched by innovation in social purpose.
Duffy added that project management skills, detailing 'in a calm and elegant way', and relationships with clients are all important skills which never get noticed.
'The Stirling Prize is an indication of that, ' he said.
RIBA president Marco Goldschmied hit back at the remarks.'Projects like the London Eye are remarkable for their project management skills and detailing skills, ' he said. 'It is the epitome of these things. The fact that we have voting by the public makes his comments seem odd. People experience buildings and not architects. The so-called star names only do a fraction of the work in this country.'
RIBA presidential candidate Alex Reid called for greater promotion of the buildings which won RIBA's regional awards. 'The smaller projects are likely to be ignored if the RIBA doesn't promote them, ' he said.
The Stirling Prize will be screened on Channel 4 at 20.00 on Sunday 5 November. See pages six to eight for the candidates for all the RIBA's prizes.