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KATHERINE SHONFIELD

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A sign of an aspiring academic institution is the regularity of its calls for more and more prizes. It is, after all, an axiom in what Libeskind has rather distressingly called 'New Britain' that the more prizes you give, the more legitimate you and your institutions are. The riba gives out dozens of regional awards, and has a Stirling Prize in addition to the Gold Medal.

While we all know that there is a difference between a lifetime achievement award (Gold Medal), and an Oscar for an individual actor (Stirling), the tenor of these prizes is all of a piece. These prizes may seem like Oscars, but the myth they perpetuate is that of the Booker. Architecture as Book. That is: architecture has a single author, a beginning and an end, and is a distinct, separate object. An object that can be judged with minimum reference to particular location, to those who live with its consequences, to what goes on in it, to its change and adaptation, and emergence over time. That myth of a packageable product is nothing new; it is a familiar marketing exercise aimed at a public drained of understanding the complex and subtle forms of creativity that characterise any large-scale enterprise.

One lone award stands out in its explicit recognition that great innovative work doesn't necessarily come in neat compartments: the Jane Drew prize. For once, it really is significant that this is an award initiated and promoted by women The anonymity of most talented women architects this century bears witness to their willingness to involve themselves in projects challenging the boundaries of their own individual authorship and professional definitions - the ones this prize is aimed at. Let's hope the nominations for it, open to all, are as wide and diverse as possible.

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