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Astragal: ASH ensures it all kicks off at the Stirling ceremony… again

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This year’s champagne-fuelled Stirling Prize ceremony was made all the livelier by vocal and determined protests from Architects for Social Housing (ASH).

The campaign group made its debut at last year’s event, to express anger at the shortlisting of RSHP’s super-luxury apartments at Neo-Bankside. 

The protesters returned last week, provoked by the Stirling Prize nomination of dRMM’s Trafalgar Place – the first phase of the contentious regeneration of the Heygate Estate in London.

Armed with masks of incoming president Ben Derbyshire (who also heads up HTA, masterplanner of the controversial Aylesbury Estate overhaul) as well as placards, megaphones and a catchy chant, the campaigners took their remonstrations to new levels.

Protests began on the pavement outside RIBA HQ, but halfway through the ceremony, about 20 activists breached the perimeter.

Their noisy progress was halted short of reaching the doors of the auditorium, and they were promptly ejected.

Undeterred, they reappeared sometime later on the balcony of the Florence Hall, briefly holding banners to the windows before being evicted for a second time.

Hats off to RIBA president Jane Duncan, who remained admirably unperturbed by the kerfuffle. 

Double whammy hits Marks Barfield

London eye fabrizio lonzini

London eye fabrizio lonzini

It has not been a good few weeks for Marks Barfield. Following recent breakdowns of the practice’s newly opened i360 observation pod in Brighton, its longer-established attraction, the London Eye, has now suffered similar problems.

Passengers were left stranded for up to three and a half hours earlier this month after the giant big wheel broke down.

According to reports, more than 500 people were left to warm themselves with emergency blankets after the mechanical failure.

One passenger, Glenn Fidock, told The Sun newspaper: ‘People were crying, and it was freezing cold because they couldn’t turn off the air conditioning.’

Those visiting the architect’s Treetop Walkway at Kew Gardens will hope that such problems don’t come in threes.

Library decision overdue

British Library by Colin St John Wilson in Euston Road

British Library by t John Wilson in Euston Road

Rumourmongers went into overdrive last week after it emerged the British Library had postponed announcing the winner of its developer-led contest for a new extension.

Originally scheduled for last month, the announcement has now been pushed back to next year, leaving the bidding teams – thought to include RSHP, Eric Parry Architects and Make – in the dark. 

Tittle-tattle surfaced that the neighbouring Francis Crick Institute was eyeing the plot for offshoot tech businesses, and had petitioned the government to transfer ownership. 

Both organisations have, however, denied this, with a library spokesperson explaining the project was running late because it was ‘very substantial and complicated with a whole variety of stakeholders’.  

Will Nouvel’s gallery be ancien before it opens?

Louvre abu dhabi 2

Louvre abu dhabi 2

Jean Nouvel’s epic Louvre Abu Dhabi may be nearing completion, but there remains no exact date for its grand opening. 

Although some had its ribbon-cutting in their diaries for December or January, the schedule has reportedly been kicked into the glimmering azure Persian Gulf over ‘political’ concerns. 

According to The Times, the delay centres around the potential for the £500 million stainless-steel dome structure to become a prominent symbol in extremist minds of Western ‘contamination’ of Islamic values. 

Any delay will be particularly galling for Nouvel, who boycotted the opening of the Philharmonie de Paris saying corners had been cut and its grand debut had arrived too early. Will similar drama surround an opening that is too late?

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Readers' comments (1)

  • Thank you for this brief mention in the otherwise blanket ban on our protest by the architectural press.

    For the record, our catchy chant was: 'Aylesbury Estate: Human Rights Violation / Heygate Estate: Stirling Prize Nomination.'

    The 2016 O. J. Simpson Prize (last year won by RSH+P's Neo Bankside) was awarded to dRMM Architects for Trafalgar Place, built on the demolition of 104 council homes, now placed with 235 unaffordable homes with gated access, security cameras, homeless spikes and security guards nearly as violent as those guarding the RIBA.

    And the inaugural Ben Derbyshire Foot in Mouth Award was won by an overwhelming majority vote for the following comment by the RIBA President elect: ‘Whilst many (me included) are concerned that current housing and planning policies do not serve the ambition to create mixed neighbourhoods particularly well, not everyone believes that public money should be used to subsidise families to live in areas they could not otherwise afford to.’

    The often repeated lie that council housing is subsidised by public money is a myth propagated by the property developers and councils that want the land they are built on, and it doesn’t bode well for the future of the RIBA as an institution to hear it repeated from the mouth of its future President. What stops the families Ben Derbyshire so loftily dismisses from their neighbourhoods from being able to afford to live there any longer is precisely the demolition of the council estates they have called home for decades and their replacement with the luxury apartments the RIBA has seen fit to nominate for this year’s Stirling Prize.

    Unfortunately, although it was a fine evening, very few architects came out to talk to us this year, though we saw much sniggering and tittering from behind your champagne flutes. But if anyone cares to know about the reasons for our protest, see our report here:

    See you next year, if not before.

    Simon Elmer
    Architects for Social Housing

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