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Architects are ‘guardians of quality’, housing secretary tells Stirling Prize party

Housing secretary James Brokenshire at the RIBA Stirling Prize party
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Architects are the ‘guardians of quality’ and have an essential role in creating communities, housing secretary James Brokenshire told the Stirling Prize party in north London on Wednesday night 

The RIBA’s architecture award – won this year by Foster + Partner’s Bloomberg HQ – consistently showcases the ‘immense talent coming out of this country’, the minister said.

‘You are the guardians of quality,’ he told a packed ceremony at Camden’s Roundhouse. ‘So often the difference between the ugly and the beautiful isn’t because of ‘good architect vs bad architect’ but rather a case of there being little or no architect at all.

‘What I know is we need more of your expertise involved in how we build and create communities, not less.’

The minister said he paid ‘special attention’ to the quality of design and style and said the UK needed to build homes that ‘fit with the world around them’.

It followed a speech from RIBA president Ben Derbyshire, who stressed the importance of architects’ role in delivering good quality housing. 

I always say that architecture is inevitably political,’ Derbyshire said. ‘And of all the political issues that confront us, housing is a top priority, and rightly so.

‘But it is essential that new homes are well designed. At the moment the majority of new homes do not benefit from the involvement of architects at all. Design – and build quality – are still too often at the bottom of the list of priorities.

‘That’s a huge missed opportunity to create places that work for people and communities now and in the future.’

Later, Derbyshire made the most of the housing secretary’s presence to warn that a ‘bad Brexit’ would be a ’huge risk for UK architecture’.

He said: ‘Architecture transcends boundaries and borders. Our universities train talented architecture students from all over the world and a fifth of our architect friends and colleagues working in the UK are EU nationals.

‘Now more than ever, we at the RIBA, and all of us in this room, need to see our politicians coming together to ensure that the UK continues to be an outward-facing and creative country, supporting the exceptional talent that we are celebrating tonight.’

It was the third Stirling Prize win for Fosters, which previously won with 30 St Mary Axe – the Gherkin – and the Imperial War Museum Duxford in Cambridgeshire. No other architect has won the accolade as many times.

The other finalists were Bushey Cemetery by Waugh Thistleton Architects; the New Tate St Ives by Jamie Fobert Architects with Evans & Shalev; Nazrin Shah Centre, Oxford, by Níall McLaughlin Architects; Storey’s Field Community Centre and Nursery by MUMA; and Chadwick Hall, University of Roehampton by Henley Halebrown. 

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