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Why awards process must be seen to be fair

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Astragal, as the architectural equivalent of a gossip columnist, can be forgiven for going into print about the conflicting opinion of the jury and awards panels over the architectural merit of 88 Wood Street by the Richard Rogers Partnership in the RIBA Awards for Architecture 2000 (AJ 19.10.00).

However, his take on the story fed to him, one presumes through a member of the awards panel, stands some correction.

The unanimous view of the jury panel - of which I was chair - was that, judged against the awards criteria, which are clearly set out by the RIBA, 88 Wood Street should not be recommended for an award.

Persona l pre jud ice , ant ipathy against the author or against offices as a building type, did not enter into our deliberations.Rather than offering up these explanations, Astragal and his source should be grown up enough to acknowledge that there will always be an element of subjectivity in judging architecture. The awards system should provide a fair and transparent way of addressing this.

I am aware from discussions that I have had with members of the profession that opinions on the architectural merit of 88 Wood Street are split, parallelling the split in opinion between the jury and awards panels. I do not have a problem with the awards panel acting as a third tier of assessment to balance up decisions made by jury panels across the regions.

What I do, however, take issue with is the process that was followed, namely that the entry for 88 Wood Street was picked out by the awards panel selectively from the entries shortlisted for a visit, but not recommended by the jury panels for an award. Unless all schemes that were shortlisted for a visit but not recommended by the jury panel for an award are reviewed on a comparable basis, then the awards panel exposes itself - rightly or wrongly - to accusations of cronyism.

It is important to the profile of architecture that the RIBA Aw a rd s fo r Architecture have credibility outside of any self-referential group within the profession and a fair and transparent process is certainly needed to secure this.

The RIBA should also decide whether the RIBA Awards for Architecture are simply awarded by architects for architects, or whether it wishes to heed its own direction to jury chairs, that the opinion of lay members of the jury panels should not be ignored Stefanie Fischer, Burrell Foley Fischer, London N1

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