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Shock as RIAS snubs Hadid's Glasgow museum


The decision to turn down Zaha Hadid Architects’ landmark Glasgow Riverside museum of Transport for both RIAS and RIBA Awards has been met with condemnation and bemusement

Submitted under the new single-entry award system run by the RIAS for Scottish projects, the £74 million building was not even named on the 23-strong RIAS Award shortlist, meaning the judges won’t visit the popular Clydeside attraction.

Rab Bennetts of Bennetts Associates, who has previously chaired the Scottish RIBA awards judging panel, described the snub for the double Stirling Prize-winner as ‘crackers’.

He said: ‘Whether or not you like Zaha Hadid’s architecture, it is undeniably worth a visit to see whether it should receive an award. 

‘Awards judging should be more like architectural competitions of old, when an assessor’s report was obligatory to explain the reasons for a jury’s decision.’ 

He added: ‘Not to visit what is probably [Scotland’s] most published building of the year seems so perverse it needs an explanation.’

Last year, RIAS secretary Neil Baxter called the Stirling Prize shortlist ‘London-centric’, saying Scottish schemes were overlooked by the RIBA, which was obsessed with the ‘Home Counties’.

Jim Heverin of Zaha Hadid Architects said: ‘We don’t understand the judging criteria – it seems the museum was snubbed for other reasons –perhaps prejudice against Zaha, as she’s a big name?’

Referring to Baxter’s comments, he added ‘Last year comments were made about the Stirling Prize judging being a London love-in and that the process wasn’t fair or transparent. This is exactly that.’

Under the current system, RIBA HQ cannot overturn the RIAS decision and there is no other protocol for the RIBA to judge projects within Scotland.

Tony Chapman, the RIBA’s head of awards said: ‘The RIBA representative on the Scottish jury, Robert Dye, did question the non-shortlisting of the Riverside Museum. However, the RIBA has no powers to insist on a visit to a building in Scotland.’

Baxter responded: ‘We had 71 submissions, so 48 didn’t make the cut. The judges make their decisions based on the givens and on that basis they chose 23 schemes throughout Scotland.’

‘I cannot comment on specific projects which are not shortlisted and we have no agreement with the entrants to do so.’

See the full RIAS shortlist here.

Postscript (4 May 2012)

The Riverside Museum, Glasgow has been named the most innovative museum in the fields of technology, labour and social history by the European Museum Academy. Riverside competed against museumsin 12 other European countries to win the 17th annual Micheletti Award.

In their citation, the judges noted that: ‘The careful planning of the museum included involving visitors and volunteers at every stage of the development.

”The museum has put its budget and its large workforce to excellent use, it is completely publicly oriented, flexible and always on the outlook. It is making a change to a rundown neighbourhood, as well as being a showcase of past, present and future transport industries of Glasgow.’

Other comments

Glasgow-based Alan Dunlop said the Hadid brush-off would be ‘construed as sour grapes’. He said: ‘I’m not a supporter of the project myself but I have no doubt that it should be shortlisted for an RIAS and RIBA Award.’

Will Alsop, who was named on the contest shortlist for the project in 2006, added: ‘The RIAS has been short sighted. There are many jealousies about and too much listening to whinging architects and professional tastemakers. It’s very depressing.’

Gareth Hoskins of Gareth Hoskins Architects - one of the runners-up in the original contest - said: ‘I’m very surprised that the Riverside Museum hasn’t been included on the shortlist for the RIAS Awards. It’s a bold new architectural addition to the City and, while it feels slightly disconnected from its surroundings, this is more a result of the recession hitting the wider redevelopment of that area of the Clyde. It’s certainly a building that is worthy of a jury visit and one I would have expected to have been included on the shortlist.’

Mark Slattery of contractor BAM Construct UK said: ‘The Museum has been very positively received so I’m sure as design and build contractors we’d share in the bemusement about the listing of a project that is both on first sight, and on greater exploration, an awesome work both of design and engineering.’

A spokesman for Glasgow Life, the city’s cultural arm, said: ‘It’s obviously not for us to comment on the selection criteria for any awards. Almost 1.3 million people have visited Riverside Museum for its tantalising mix of Glasgow’s much loved transport and technology collections and, in keeping with the traditions it celebrates, the building is a feat of engineering and architectural excellence which has become instantly recognisable and has been celebrated by critics from around the world.’




Readers' comments (2)

  • Kevan Shaw

    Given the range and quality of the buildings shortlisted this year it is obvious that there is no need to scrabble around to make up numbers. Is it right there should be an automatic assumption that a big name London architect with a big budget project should automatically be shortlisted in a design competition? I am rather glad to see that the jury in Scotland are sufficiently robust to resist such fashion oriented pressure!

    Kevan Shaw

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  • I am, to say the least, not a fan of Hadid's style but the Riverside MoT is a wonderfully detailed and beautifully finished building - the exhibition spaces are well thought out and intriguing and perhaps most importantly has become a very popular attraction (despite its awful location). I can understand the sentiment that 'Scottish' architecture should take precedent but to ignore this very good building seems slightly pernicious.

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