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Heatherwick's pavilion wins RIBA Lubetkin Prize

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Sean Kitchen reports back from last night’s Lubetkin Awards evening at the RIBA

The Lubetkin Prize for outstanding work in International Architecture by an RIBA member went to Heatherwick Studio’s UK pavilion at the Shanghai World Expo 2010.

Almost all the guests at Portland Place felt the ‘seed cathedral’ was a deserving winner, echoing RIBA president Ruth Reed’s verdict that it was ‘an outstanding emblem for Britain and it’s architecture’. Heatherwick’s pavilion beat O’Donnell and Tuomey’s Timberyard Social Housing in Dublin and David Chipperfield Architects’ Anchorage Museum in Alaska to take the prize.

All the three schemes were visited and judged by the panel of high ranking RIBA officials chaired by RIBA President Ruth Reed: there should however, have been another contender.

During the naming of the shortlisted projects to win the Lubetkin, Ruth Reed mentioned that a fourth project had been removed. The Met, a housing tower block in Bangkok, Thailand, winner of its category in the World Architecture Festival, was due to be judged by the panel just as the Architects, WOHA Architects based in Singapore (winners of two International awards that evening), withdrew their entry.

The political instability of the region leading to fears for the judges’ safety.Ruth Reed stated the panel were ‘due to arrive just as the tanks rolled in’, forcing the architects decision.

Whether the omission of WOHA Architects project had the same significance as England’s disallowed goal against Germany, in that recognized or not, the deserved winner was already clear is anybody’s guess.

That said with nearly 60,000 visitors per day - a staggering figure close to equalling the number of fibre optic rods that make up the UK pavilion - this icon of the 2010 World Expo was a convincingly popular winner.

In the wake of the disappointing news of the Met’s unavoidable withdrawal from the shortlist, Ruth Reed’s offered some words of consolidation to WOHA Architects: ‘Better luck next time.’

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