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Katherine Shonfield

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Nominations for the RIBA's Annie Spink Award will by now be closed. This unique prize will be presented in 'recognition of an outstanding individual contribution to architectural education'. The intriguing thing is how a judging panel can arrive at such an assessment. Those 'quality-assurance panels' that plague academic departments at regular intervals are currently awash with criteria by which students can judge the effectiveness of their teachers.

For the most part, theses are stunning in their banality.

The terms of this new award are an opportunity to reject the charade of quantifying the quintessentially unquantifiable.

No proformas, no data collections are required: they ask for a set of testimonials from ex-students and colleagues. So, at last, a teacher will be judged not by their books, not by the number of their articles in unread journals, nor yet by their buildings. It seems this award is about the hardest and most inventive graft of all - the instillation of architectural awareness and inspiration by word of mouth.So in a world which rates quantity over quality, production over understanding, information over comprehension, what criteria might the judges look for?

If they care about new ideas that hit home, they will look for some ruffled feathers among the representatives of the old guard.

If they care about the familiarity and intimacy characteristic of great design teachers, they might search for nicknames, terms of endearment and funny stories.

If they care about design, they will look for tangible evidence of a revolution in our ways of thinking about and representing architectural space.

And in place of stylistic sycophancy, they will look for the eradicable sensibility that marks those whose lives have been transformed by a unique individual. And they will know that no-one forgets a good teacher.

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