Few can be that surprised at the outcome of this year's Stirling Prize.Some will undoubtedly be appalled.
Future Systems'Lords Media Centre (the winner)and Benson & Forsyth's Museum of Scotland (the runner-up) both have their detractors.But both have far more devotees.This is the stuff which awards are made of.
Whatever platitudes are uttered about rewarding excellence and raising standards,big flashy awards are designed to generate publicity,or,to put it in less cynical terms,to generate debate.Which means they have to cause a fuss.
This year,Wilkinson Eyre's Stratford Station made it to the final three contenders for the Stirling prize,but was eventually ruled out because 'everyone admired [it] greatly but no-one was prepared to be passionate about it'.Having whittled the shortlist down to the final two,the jury was split three-to-two in favour of the Media Centre.The buildings with devoted supporters and,maybe,the odd detractor,triumphed over the building which was universally 'admired'.
Those entrusted with giving out next year's awards will be inundated with suitably high-profile grandes projets .The Dome and the British Museum both come accompanied by an impressive weight of press cuttings,the whiff of scandal,and a cast of instantly recognisable characters.If the jury proves resistant to the charms of Britain's architectural giants,it can find solace in the Wheel which,rather like the Media Centre,has come to be symbolic of what can be achieved by a small practice and a combination of hard slog, determination and flair.Andif the judges are of a puritanical turn of mind,and remain unmoved by the whole circus of ebullient millennium projects,there is the Royal Opera House,a project which addresses serious issues of urbanism and historicism,but has a long history of controversy,or the new Tate Modern,an intelligent example of designing for a change of use which just happens to be the most talked about regeneration project around.The competition for headlines has never been stiffer.If you fancy your building's chances for next year's Stirling Prize,stall for time,and wait until 2001.