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Astragal: What’s another year? RIBA International Prize goes biennial

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Given the backdrop of Brexit, you might have thought the RIBA would be doing everything possible to boost ‘brand UK’ overseas

However, it has emerged that the RIBA’s International Prize (launched in 2015 in place of the Lubetkin Prize) has been downgraded from an annual to a biennial award.

When first unveiled, the accolade was presented as a yearly celebration of the ‘best building in any country [by any architect]’. The first gong was handed out in November 2016 to Grafton Architects’ University of Engineering campus (pictured) in Lima, Peru. Had the prize run as billed, the announcement of the next winner would now be imminent. 

Surely there must be oodles of potential candidates being built around the world each year? So might this change have something to do with the cost of the judges visiting every longlisted building plus further visits to the shortlisted schemes? This grandest of globe-trotting grand juries is due to be led on its travels by Elizabeth Diller in 2018.

Asked to explain the change, an RIBA spokesperson smooth-talked: ‘The prize’s biennial format has been designed to create a sustainable year-round, cross-continental judging process, reflecting the RIBA’s commitment to establishing the prize as the most valued global architecture award.’

Entries are now open for the 2018 RIBA International prize and will close on 17 October 2017. Click here for more information

Sorry, we don’t recognise that job title 

As if the profession needed any further proof of its increasing marginalisation, the omission of architects from a recent BBC News analysis entitled ‘Does your job pay less than it did five years ago?’ has stuck in many archi-Tweeters’ throats.

Searches for ‘architect’ on the Beeb’s online pay comparison app elicited the response: ‘Sorry, we don’t recognise this job title’. 

The bbc apologises

The bbc apologises

Chris Boyce (@MrBoyce) was one of the first to spot the gaping hole, prompting him to tweet: ‘What is this crap? Come on @BBCNews why leave Architect off the list?? Really not a clever omission … please fix!’

A BBC boffin explained that the oversight was down to the government not recording the title in its ONS data – the basis for the website widget. Which is possibly even more galling.  

Rent acceptable in bitcoin



Co-living housing pioneer The Collective has become the first major UK developer to accept bitcoin, the de facto currency of the Dark Web.

Since last week, residents at its PLP-designed Old Oak property in north west London have been able to pay their deposits using the virtual money, and will soon be able to pay their rent this way too. 

The value of a bitcoin has soared in recent months – up from $1,500 (£1,148) in early May and hitting $5,000 (£3,826) for the first time earlier this month. 

But, with some experts concerned about the virtual currency’s long-term stability (it has been criticised for its volatile value and susceptibility to theft by hackers) could its adoption backfire? 

A place for all the (famous) people



To Richard Rogers’ Chelsea home for the launch of his new memoir-cum-manifesto A Place for All People published by Canongate. The negronis flowed, the canapés impressed – no doubt thanks to Ruthie Rogers – and the guests came from the upper echelons of the London cultural scene. 

In no particular order, we spotted: Terence Conran, Ken Livingstone, Amanda Levete, Norman Foster, Michael Heseltine, Ian McEwan, Thomas Heatherwick, Nigella Lawson, Ian Ritchie, Rohan Silva, Andrew Marr, Alan Yentob, Simon Jenkins, Tony Travers, Erica Bolton, Mike Davies, Rowan Moore, Veronica Wadley, Peter Murray, Gail Rebuck and Peter Florence. Just Astragal’s average night out really…

Dirty under the collar

White collar factory

White collar factory

It was a bit more of a production line – appropriately so – at Derwent’s opening party for AHMM’s White Collar Factory at Old Street, with guests greeted, registered, badged up and wrist-bands assigned – each marked with a half-hour time slot – before being shepherded up in lifts for their allotted time on the roof, escorted down when their time was up for a turn around the Level 17 running-track, before being packed into lifts to descend for the basement speeches. 

And by the end of the evening, the building was getting distinctly dirty under the collar, with coffee martinis and steak tartare spilt on its pristine concrete. 

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