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'Phallic' Foster does the Stirling double with triumphant gherkin

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The hugely popular 'erotic gherkin', described by one judge as a triumph for 'the feminisation of the phallic symbol', has scooped this year's Stirling Prize.

Designed by Foster and Partners, the Swiss Re tower at 30 St Mary Axe was unanimously chosen by the judges at the Old Billingsgate Market ceremony in London on Saturday evening.

The victory represents a triumph for office architecture, as it is the first high-rise or commercial building to win the £20,000 RIBA Stirling Prize, in association with The Architects' Journal.

It is also the first time a project has won unaminously.

Foster, like Wilkinson Eyre Architects, has now tasted Stirling success twice, having previously won the prize with its American Air Museum, Duxford.

The 'gherkin' beat the five other shortlisted projects: Business Academy Bexley, also by Foster; the Coventry Phoenix Initiative by MacCormac Jamieson Prichard; the Dublin Spire by Ian Ritchie Architects; the Kunsthaus in Graz by Peter Cook and Colin Fournier; and the Imperial War Museum North in Salford, Manchester, by Daniel Libeskind.

In their citation, the judges said: 'The client wanted a landmark building and it has certainly got one. The way the building lands on to the ground seems entirely consequent on what is above it and the level of discrimination, careful detailing and power of the structure combine to sustain the initial impression that this is a memorable building of international standing.'

Speaking at the ceremony, broadcast live on Channel 4, Norman Foster stressed the importance of the client's role.

'However big the committee may be, projects focus on one individual who has skill and initiative.' In this case, that person was Swiss Re's Sara Fox, he added.

But it was Royal Opera House director and judge Deborah Bull who stole the show, dubbing the building a triumph for 'the feminisation of the phallic symbol'.

This year's other judges were AJ editor Isabel Allen, architect Edward Cullinan, sculptor Antony Gormley and Mecanoo's Francine Houben.

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