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Tutors angry at urban design snub

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Urban design tutors around the country are incensed by the 'shoddy' treatment their students have suffered at the hands of the Urban Design Group, which last week refused to hand out any prize money at an exhibition of their work.

The biennial showcase of work, this year shown at the University of Westminster during Urban Design Week, traditionally culminates in an award ceremony of cash prizes - but this year the four judges felt the efforts of students from 11 design courses were not deserving of recognition.

Tutors were emailed a curt statement which said that 'the overall standard was disappointing'.

Entries failed to tackle the challenges set by the projects, it said, and 'bordered on the fanciful'.

Although work from the LSE and Manchester School of Architecture was commended, the judges decided to withhold the £600 prize money.

'The judges felt that if an award was made it might devalue the awards made in previous years, ' said Marcus Wilshere, chair of the UDG and one of the judges. He said while the work was 'fairly good' there was no outstanding entry.

Andy Karski, a director at Tibbalds TM2, GLA urban designer Mark Brearley and Janet Tibbalds were also on the judging panel.

But tutors are angry that the entries were dismissed so lightly. Kathryn Firth and Ricky Burdett of the cities programme at the LSE, have written to the UDG to complain about the judges' 'poverty of imagination' and 'bland dismissal' of the work.

'It shouldn't be the students who are punished.

If there are issues then we as professionals need to sit down and think about them, ' said Firth.

And Tim Townshend, programme director of the MA in urban design at the University of Newcastle, denied students' work was not up to scratch. 'The implication is that urban design education is getting worse. I don't agree. Courses are going from strength to strength, ' he said.

The spat coincides with the launch of a CABE initiative to promote urban design. At the launch, RIBA president Paul Hyett said there was a need for a new institute. 'The professions within construction are poorly equipped for the task ahead.

We need an Urban Design Institute, ' he said. But Mark Whitby, chair of the Urban Design Alliance, said the professions were working together to eliminate the need for another institute.

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