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Stirling 2001 - project architect

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Stirling 2001

Marc Barron, associate director, Wilkinson Eyre

Times change, says Marc Barron of Wilkinson Eyre Architects, who remembers only too well how politicians and press stuck the boot into Millennium projects such as Magna in their early days.

But the project architect was confident one of his most controversial buildings would score a direct hit with judges after two previous Stirling Prize near misses.

'We were always confident the project would hang together, ' he says. 'If anything the bad publicity spurred us on to prove them wrong.'

Barron puts Magna's success down to its 'holistic and coherent statement, unlike many projects of that ilk, which have tended to be rather disparate.' But achieving this was a tall order, given the complexity and enormous scale of the buildings, he says.

'The site took my breath away on our first visit. It was an unknown quantity and quality and contractors were still finding tunnels and hidden parts to buildings after a year on site.'

Barron is not sure if the prize will take his firm into an even bigger architectural league, or help steer Wilkinson Eyre Architects to more commercial or civic jobs. At present the firm, which has 50 staff in London, splits its work between bridges, offices and cultural works such as museums.Magna, however, was unique.

'Magna is something we have not done before and are unlikely to do in the future.

It is hard to say if it will bring about a great change in our situation. But the prize is good as recognition from the industry that we have been there.'

This sort of recognition is much better than the kind Magna was receiving a year or so ago, he says, when one newspaper branded the design for the former steelworks an 'ill-conceived project in Rotherham'.

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