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Astragal: Stirling bookies slow to react as flutter-rush favours council housing scheme

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Those with a gambling bent will have noticed the reversal in the bookmakers’ favourites to win this year’s RIBA Stirling Prize

When the shortlist was announced in July, outsiders London Bridge Station (by Grimshaw) and Goldsmith Street housing (by Mikhail Riches and Cathy Hawley) had been offered odds by William Hill at 10/1 and 11/1 respectively. RSHP’s Macallan Distillery was the early frontrunner.

But after a glut of wagers went on London Bridge and Goldsmith Street, the bookies seemingly took note of the public’s design hunches and altered their initial odds.

In fact, William Hill reported two-thirds of all the bets had been placed on Goldsmith Street taking the UK’s most prestigious architecture prize. 

The flutter-rush would see the bookmaker lose more than £5,000 if the affordable housing scheme in Norwich – clearly the punters’ favourite – was to win. 

So why then (asked a beady-eyed AJ staffer) was the project still being offered at 7/2, behind Grimshaw’s station whose odds had been dropped to 5/2?

It appears the bookmaker didn’t know and, upon being asked, quickly changed the figures on its website.

For those wanting a late bet, Goldsmith Street is now clear favourite at 5/4 on to win. Hardly worth it for the big-buck speculator.

Nouvel weighs in over Paris station row

Gare du nord by valode and pistre

Gare du nord by valode and pistre

The possible rethink, or even scrapping, of the billion-upon-billion pound High Speed 2 rail link has prompted backers and objectors to spar over the merits of the mammoth project.

However, in France, a debate over their own railway-related ‘flagship’ scheme has taken vitriol to a new level. 

Plans have been brewing for some time for a heavily glazed overhaul of Paris’s 19th-century Gare du Nord rail station (above). 

The £540 million proposals, designed by French firm Valode & Pistre and due to complete ahead of the city’s 2024 Olympic Games, feature a huge glass structure, housing walkways, a glut of new shops and an incredible 105 escalators.

But unhappy local architects, including Jean Nouvel, have penned an open letter describing the plans as ‘indecent’. 

The objectors have branded the development a ‘serious urban error’, ‘unacceptable’ and warranting a ‘rethink from floor to rafters’.

Would a rejig – however major – really appease the critics? As 19th-century writer Jean-Baptiste Alphonse Karr said: ‘Plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose.’ 

The merits of comprehensible articulation

So to the trusty pages of the RIBA Journal, where we find the institute’s outgoing president Ben Derbyshire penning his final column. 

He used his swansong to vent frustration at ‘archispeak’, which he describes as a ‘widespread phenomenon’ that ‘inhibits communication in the world of practice’. 

Long-suffering AJ journos can relate to the pain, wearied by years of architects replacing words that ordinary people use with pretentious synonyms. But it seems Derbyshire has not heeded his own advice. 

He continues: ‘This obsession with an exclusive lexicon militates against winning the hearts and minds of the society we serve.’  

Perhaps those inhabiting glazed dwellings should refrain from hurling masonry.

No such thing as too many pavilions? 

Pleasebeseated render one

Pleasebeseated render one

Are we pavilioned out? For some, the summer has been spent traipsing between Dulwich, Hyde Park and a canal somewhere in Hackney for openings, parties and programmes of events (Dulwich Picture Gallery, the Serpentine Pavilion and the Antepavilion respectively). 

And that’s not to mention more short-lived structures popping up during the London Festival of Architecture – such as the Wooden Parliament by Cristina Díaz Moreno and Efrén Ga Grinda, embellishing the cultural offerings of Coal Drops Yard no less. 

At one point it looked like this insatiable appetite for the building type was abating, but pavilions have had a Hot Girl Summer and the advent of autumn ain’t slowing them down. 

And here comes another one: Please Be Seated (pictured) by Paul Cocksedge is not a euphemism, but rather the landmark installation of the London Design Festival which kicks off on 14 September. 

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