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Northern Irish architects slam RIBA over National Awards snub

St Bronagh's primary by d-on architects
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The Royal Society of Ulster Architects (RSUA) has criticised the RIBA over the ‘disappointing’ omission of Northern Irish projects in this year’s National Awards 

Responding to the snub, RSUA president Joan McCoy said the profession should celebrate architecture within the reach of everyone, not just ‘those with deep pockets’.

In the RIBA Regional Awards, 12 Northern Irish projects were selected – six times the number of the previous year – but none of the schemes made it through to the national level. 

The AJ reported this week how this year’s 49 national winners were ‘even more London-heavy than usual’, with over half of the projects in the capital. 

There was also a complete absence of schemes from the East Midlands regions – which had seven Regional Award winners – among the national winners.

McCoy said: ’It is very disappointing and quite surprising that not one of the 12 winners of a RIBA Northern Ireland Award 2018 was deemed worthy of a RIBA National Award.

’The quality of buildings on the Northern Ireland regional awards list, achieved often with very restricted budgets, is a testament to the creativity and design skills of their architects.

‘As a profession we need to celebrate architecture that is within the reach of everyone, not just those with deep pockets.’

She added: ’’There is no doubt that the typical budget for a building in Northern Ireland is considerably lower than in the wealthier parts of the UK and I do wonder how much that is taken into account by the national judging panel.’

No 37, Belfast, by FAMILY architects designers makers

No 37, Belfast, by FAMILY architects designers makers

Source: Grainne Cumming

No 37, Belfast, by FAMILY architects designers makers

McCoy said judges had been deeply impressed by the design quality of Bronagh’s Primary School in Rostrevor by d-on architects (pictured top), which won the RSUA Building of the Year award – officially the Liam McCormick Prize.

’This is the sort of project which, without being flashy, clearly demonstrates the enormous value that architects can bring to a community and highlights the importance of excellent architecture in our public buildings,’ she said.

Other Northern Ireland regional winners included FAMILY’s black timber-clad house on the outskirts of Belfast, built for just £100,000, which has made it onto the RIBA House of the Year longlist, and County Down Barn in Newtownards by Micah T Jones Architect.

In a response to the RSUA, the RIBA said that all projects undergo the same ’rigorous process’ and that for consistency and fairness there are ‘no geographical quotas’ in the awards. 

A RIBA spokesperson said: ’For the National Awards, RIBA Judges are looking for very high levels of architectural merit and, whilst there were some excellent projects in Northern Ireland this year, after much deliberation the jury felt that none met the level achieved by other projects.’

RIBA Awards by region

RIBA Awards by region

RIBA Awards by region 2014–18

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