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Findlay was brilliant, original, modest and a worthy winner of the Jane Drew Prize

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Findlay’s humility, combined with her brilliantly original architecture, changed an industry, says Christine Murray

It is a great privilege, and a challenge, to chair the deliberations of what is perhaps the most prestigious jury in our industry, comprised of some of the most influential clients and leaders in architecture.

The Women in Architecture Awards jury met on Friday to decide the winners of three honours - the Jane Drew Prize, Woman Architect of the Year and Emerging Woman Architect of the Year.

The day kicked off with presentations by the eight candidates shortlisted for the Emerging Woman Architect of the Year award, each quizzed in turn by the jury. It was a great opportunity for these women to wow future clients and prominent architects - and they did. The jury was inspired.

Then came the difficult task choosing the winner of Woman Architect of the Year. Both winners will be announced on 7 February at the annual luncheon.

Soft and hairy house

When the conversation turned to decide on this year’s winner of the Jane Drew Prize, we didn’t realise how poignant this discussion would turn out to be.

Eva Jiřičná made an impassioned statement about why Kathryn should be recognised with this award. ‘There are very few truly unique minds in architecture, and Kathryn is able to see the world through fresh eyes,’ Jiřičná said. ‘And she is so modest.’

The jury agreed that Findlay’s humility, combined with her brilliantly original architecture, had made an impression - even changed an industry. And, as Jiřičná put it, ‘This award, the Jane Drew Prize, is the only award that she could receive to recognise that. It is my hope that this prize will assure her place in architectural history.’

There was talk of how Findlay had not built as much as she would have in a fairer world. Findlay’s career was challenged by a number of false starts and unlucky breaks, ‘But she always picked herself up, and started again’. Most of all, the jury wanted Findlay to know that her contribution to the profession had been recognised: her influence, as well as her architecture.

The decision unanimous, most of the jury had left when I got the call that Findlay had died just hours earlier.

Findlay’s obituary is the most-read story we have ever had on the AJ website, with 9,000 readers within three days - a testament to her influence and the value of her contribution to the profession. I am sorry she will not hear the words of the jury, nor be there to receive this award. I can only hope the recognition of Findlay’s considerable contribution to architecture will bring comfort to her family and lead a new generation of architects to her work.

A special thanks to the AJ Women in Architecture 2014 Awards jury for their time: Claire Bennie, Moira Gemmill, Eva Jiřičná, Anna Keay, Doreen Lawrence, Laura Lee, Graham Morrison, Kathleen Morrison, Peter Rees, Martha Thorne and Victoria Thornton.


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