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Astragal: Grimshaw partner quids in after betting on Stirling rival

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Grimshaw’s Mark Middleton was impressively noble after losing out on this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize to Mikhail Riches

Apparently, the decision by the Julia Barfield-led jury was not unanimous, with many on the night believing the other main contender was Grimshaw’s London Bridge station.

That may have come as some comfort to Middleton. But probably not as much as the extra money in his pocket after his punt came good on Mikhail Riches’ Goldsmith Street to win the UK’s top building honour.  

Because as well as putting a wager on his own project, the Grimshaw partner hedged his bets by also putting money on the much-lauded Norwich council housing scheme. 

Middleton had managed to whack a tenner on Goldsmith Street early doors while it was still being offered at 11/1 (William Hill’s odds later dropped to 5/4). His canniness netted him £110.

His humblebrag on Twitter attempted to play down this success. ‘My feeling is that there are undiscovered tribes at the heart of the Amazon jungle who knew @MikhailRiches would win the @RIBA #stirlingprize,’ he tweeted. ‘Well done to them. My only regret was not putting £100 on them. #zeitgeist’.

What happened to the element of surprise?

Jenrick by andrewhendry

Jenrick by andrewhendry

Why does the RIBA insist on rolling out the Stirling Prize party red carpet for government housing secretaries? 

It’s a question Astragal was left mulling over after yet another one-star performance. Robert Jenrick (pictured) started off marginally better than last year’s unutterably dry James Brokenshire (April 2018-July 2019). 

However he came rapidly undone, firstly by rolling out his often-used joke about millennials and avocados. Jenrick is under the mistaken impression that, despite being 37 and reportedly owning three properties worth a combined £5 million, he is generation Y’s representative in cabinet. 

This was irksome, but not as bad as his other gaffe, which was revealing that Goldsmith Street had won the Stirling Prize before it had been announced. 

After congratulating Mikhail Riches on winning the Neave Brown gong he told the crowd, in a nudge-nudge wink-wink tone, that we would be ‘seeing more of them later’. 

The Stirling host, BBC presenter Naga Munchetty, did exactly the same thing. Is a host who doesn’t let the cat out of the bag too much to ask? 

NLA looks to a bit of empire building 

Siemens crystal

Siemens crystal

New London Architecture looks set to launch a satellite centre – dubbed NLA East – in the former Siemens Crystal building (above) at the Royal Docks. 

Designed by WilkinsonEyre and Pringle Brandon Perkins+Will, the £30 million waterfront landmark was designed to showcase Siemens’ sustainable smart city technologies but failed to take off as a major visitor attraction. 

In June, the Greater London Authority accepted an early surrender of Siemens’ lease on the proviso that a new use would make ‘better use of the building for the local community’.

NLA is now understood to be sounding out ideas for how it could best use the 6,300m² pavilion – which features a 270-seat auditorium – when it opens in November. 

One person who might have a few helpful suggestions is London’s deputy mayor for housing James Murray, who just happens to be the nephew of NLA chair Peter Murray.

Top names in contention for Oxford ethics job

Word has reached the AJ of a hush-hush competition to find a team to design a new combined humanities centre and Institute for Ethics in Artificial Technology at the University of Oxford.

Earlier this year the university proudly announced it had landed a £150 million ‘megadonation’ – allegedly the largest private donation since the Renaissance –  from the US billionaire Stephen A Schwarzman.

The gift has been earmarked for a new complex named the Schwarzman Centre (of course) which would house those researching, among other things, social issues linked to artificial intelligence.

It is understood the scheme will sit on the central plot within the Radcliffe Observatory Quarter – presumably spelling the end for a previously approved scheme for the site designed by Bennetts Associates.

Rumours are that the final three contenders are WilkinsonEyre, Hopkins and Stanton Williams. The RIBA’s Competitions office, believed to be running the contest, is wisely keeping mum.  

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