Bookmaker William Hill said the level of betting on the Stirling Prize has been in the 'hundreds of pounds' rather than the thousands, but expects it to become as important as the Turner or the Booker Prize. Much of the support among the profession, meanwhile, is tallying with the bookies and heading Walsall's way.
William Hill spokesman Graham Sharpe, who was sent citations and images by the RIBA to come up with the odds, told the AJ last week that Stirling betting could become established in 'minority appeal awards' after its first book this year. 'We haven't been knocked out by people trying to get on but the word needs to be put around, ' he said.
Some in the profession showed their cards, however. Presidential candidate Alex Reid said his favourite is the 4-1 shot BA London Eye and has put on a £10 wager. 'I think it's a remarkable combination - a spectacular building which is self-effacing. It uses minimum technical means to achieve its goal and it is all about looking out of the building, which is modest. I'm also a huge admirer of the entrepreneurial spirit of Julia Barfield and David Marks, it has a Victorian flavour almost like Brunel.'
Paul Hyett refused to back one winner, but rival Brian Godfrey picked Alsop & Stormer's Peckham Library. 'The organisation of the space is superb, ' he said. 'It's very simple and it's my kind of building. It just works.'
Allies and Morrison partner Graham Morrison picked the Walsall Art Gallery and described it as a 'very complete building. It's remarkable that, for a first real building [for Caruso St John], it is so well considered.'
And Richard MacCormac also picked out the Walsall Art Gallery, which demonstrated 'an architectural quality which is striking and surprising'.
Caruso St John's hotly-tipped joint favourite for the Stirling Prize, the £16 million New Art Gallery in Walsall. It would be a coup for architecture in the regions, for regeneration, and for a young practice.
Marks Barfield Architects' BA London Eye, which has been tipped by some high-profile figures and is second favourite with the bookies.
Popular, but early technical problems may count against it.
Chetwood Associates' Sainsbury's supermarket near the Dome in Greenwich. The £13 million building was the 'People's Choice' and narrowly made it onto the shortlist.
Full of environmental features, but an outsider for the full £20,000 prize.
Alsop & Stormer's Peckham Library. The £4.5 million scheme would be a good choice, not least because it is a public education building. Thought a good bet at 6-1 with bookmaker William Hill.
At least one of the judging panel is known to be opting for Foster and Partners' £32.5 million joint favourite, Canary Wharf Station.
But rail is currently in difficulty and the JLE could be 'last year's story'.
Richard Rogers Partnership's 88 Wood Street. The £88 million scheme is a 13/2 long-shot, but if it does win, RRPmanaging director Marco Goldschmied will not be allowed to make the award.
The £58 million GSW headquarters by Sauerbruch Hutton Architects is the rank outsider with William Hill - and may be adversely affected by the fact that a Berlin building has already won the Stirling.
The RIBA is to also award its first sustainability prize on Saturday evening alongside the £20,000 Stirling Prize, to fit in with the theme of Marco Goldschmied's presidency. In addition to Chetwood Associates'Greenwich Sainsbury's from the main shortlist, the other trio in the final four are (left to right): Penoyre and Prasad's £650,000 Millennium Centre in Eastbrookend Country Park, Essex; Allford Hall Monaghan Morris' wellregarded £1.25 million Great Notley Primary School near Braintree, again in Essex; and the Richard Rogers Partnership's £43 million Millennium Dome for the New Millennium Experience. Sustainable development appears to be alive and well in the south of England.
Stephen Lawrence prize
The Stephen Lawrence prize is awarded to the best project under £500,000 and is again sponsored by the Goldschmied Trust. The winner also nets £5,000 and will be announced by Neville Lawrence. The unofficial shortlist of three is (left to right): Hugh Broughton Architects'£190,000 South Wimbledon District Guides Building in London; Softroom Architects' hotly-tipped £35,000 Kielder Belvedere at Benny Shank, in the Kielder Forest in Northumberland; and Ken Shuttleworth of Foster and Partners'£345,000 Crescent House in Winterbrook, Wiltshire.
Crown Estates award for conservation
And finally - the RIBAwill also hand out a prize for conservation. The shortlist is (clockwise from left): Buschow Henley's £4 million commerical and residential scheme, Shepherdess Walk in London (structural engineer John E Foster); Haworth Tompkins'£13 million Royal Court Theatre project (structural engineer Price and Myers) again in the capital; Dixon Jones BDP's £130 million Royal Opera House in Covent Garden, London (Ove Arup & Partners); and Foster and Partners' £11 million JC Decaux UK headquarters in Brentford, Middlesex, designed with structural engineer Antony Hunt Associates.