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Next Stirling Prize must go to real architecture

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New build, refurb or shell? Now that architecture has finally come of age, the intellectuals need to be asking: 'What is architecture?'

The Stirling Prize is a worthy ideal but has been hijacked to create a performance to engage the observer and gain the attention of the television viewer.

This year's winner, Magna, is wonderful. The other contenders in their own way are fascinating and unique. But how many of them are architecture?

Magna truly had the 'wow' factor but does it stand up to the test of being an architectural great? For exhibition space and set design it should be an outright winner. It has captured the essence of a steelworks with its contrasting light. The lighting is indeed a triumph. Its closest rival, the Eden Project, is big and bold and another terrific example of engineering, but where is the essence of architecture? The creation of space, scale and the architect making a relationship with the street are lacking. The Eden has landed.

Like it or not, the British Embassy in Berlin defines architecture: it has a street facade, newly created volumes, and its archway, courtyard and processional way define spatial volumes and scale.

In no way do I want to demean the finalists in this award; I am simply suggesting that, if this is an architectural award, we should first define what architecture is.

Lynne Bryant, Kingston upon Thames, London

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