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RIBA Stirling Prize reaction: ‘The money wins it’

Photo 10 10 2018, 20 47 06

The profession reacts to Foster + Partners’ opinion-splitting 2018 Stirling Prize victory. Photo Jim Stephenson

Bill Dunster, founder of ZedFactory
Wouldn’t it be wonderful if the UK architectural profession showed the public how it could really help solve some of our pressing national problems, such as durable and affordable housing that doesn’t kill you, or reducing the carbon footprint of our existing building stock, or even meeting our Paris climate treaty obligations?

Roz Barr of Roz Barr Architects
I was quite shocked [Bloomberg had won the prize]. The rest of the buildings all dealt with community, education, housing. There was a very nice mix and it was one of the strongest shortlists in years. It [Bloomberg] is one of the most capitalist buildings that one could have chosen in a time of austerity. We’re trying to find this middle ground, but then celebrating the building with no budget.

Bloomberg had [its own] constraints. The Stirling Prize is a celebration of good architecture. It’s about good buildings, and [Bloomberg] does set itself apart, but when you think about how much that façade cost per metre, and its contribution to the city: I don’t know.

Chris Romer-Lee, director at Studio Octopi
Last year there was a community festival feel to dRMM winning; this year it feels like business as usual. The money wins it. The first £1 billion Stirling Prize? The building is undoubtedly an exquisite piece of craftsmanship. There is a generosity to the public realm which is welcome.

The building is undoubtedly an exquisite piece of craftsmanship

However, I’d like to understand more how all these hugely expensive gadgets will benefit the workplace market and clients without £1 billion to spend. Heh ho.

Stephen Hodder, of Hodder + Partners and winner of the first Stirling Prize
There is little doubt that Bloomberg is an excellent bravura piece of architecture and congratulations to Foster + Partners and their client. But the RIBA Stirling Prize was conceived to celebrate a building that has made the greatest contribution to British architecture in a given year. Increasingly the prize makes a statement about a future direction in architecture, and architecture’s social purpose has never been more imperative. I believe other buildings on the shortlist are more emblematic of this direction, and make a contribution in more profound ways.

Alan Dunlop of Alan Dunlop Architect
Following the disappointment of last year, when the surprising and bizarre winner was not a building at all, the shortlist for the 2018 Stirling Prize was the strongest in years, containing six extraordinary buildings by exceptional architects.

Foremost among them was Níall McLaughlin, whose Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre looked immaculate and whose work encapsulates the true spirit of Louis Kahn, more than any other architect in practice today. McLaughlin was closely followed by MUMA and its Storey’s Field Centre and Eddington Nursery; a wonderfully rich, considered and beautifully constructed building. Stuart McKnight, Simon Usher and Gillian McInnes [of MUMA] were all students at the Mac, so for them to have won would have been great news for the Glasgow School of Art in these terrible times.

But who can argue against Foster and the Bloomberg HQ and what is obviously another incredible work. Many congratulations.

Bloomberg  double height pantry overlooking st paul's cathedral. credit  james newton

Bloomberg double height pantry overlooking st paul’s cathedral. credit james newton

Maurice Shapero of Studio Maurice Shapero
All the shortlisted buildings are designed by teams with no expression of a personal philosophy. They are all incredibly accomplished and beautifully put together, and there are some lovely spaces. But It’s mostly politeness and community consultation, and I want to see a building that hits me in the stomach – even when just viewed on screen. The winner is the ultimate expression of this view in that it’s an amazing example of huge teams somehow coming together on a massive scale. It’s packed with innovation and technological prowess. But it is anonymous.

It’s not really architecture – it’s problem-solving on a very high level

There is no author. It’s not really architecture – it’s problem-solving on a very high level. The winner has the least architecture of all the shortlisted projects, and the others don’t have enough.

Graham West, director at West Architecture
I liked all the projects on this year’s shortlist but this was probably my least favourite. I preferred the quiet ones, simply constructed with a legible end product. For me it was either MUMA or Waugh Thistleton.

Ed Jones, Dixon Jones
I’m increasingly concerned about the Stirling Prize. [How can] a £1 billion project in the City be in competition with a small nursery school? It needs to be like the Oscars where you have different categories. The whole prize needs serious revision.   

Dipa Joshi, partner at Fletcher Priest Architects
The new Bloomberg HQ certainly caught my eye walking past; no mean feat with such a wealth of architectural merit in the City. Having just joined Fletcher Priest Architects, with its strong commercial portfolio of innovative workplace design, I see this sector worthy of recognition.

If Sir Norman with the mighty Bloomberg can’t innovate – who can?

Creating such a crafted building benefiting its occupants as well as its surroundings, with the highest sustainability credentials, is commendable. In the current political climate this is a celebration! However, I can’t help supporting the underdog – if Sir Norman with the mighty Bloomberg can’t innovate – who can?

Friedrich Ludewig, director at ACME
Happy with the winner. It is a very very good building, and goes far beyond the usual office developments that are going up elsewhere. It is a shame that the internal configuration of workspaces is unmitigated old-school open plan, so it shows a possible future of office buildings but falls short in showing the future of working and collaborating. And it is a great shame that it cost so much, which makes it easy to critique and hard to replicate. It is a great example of what should be possible, but of limited use to mere mortals as long as this kind of quality comes with this kind of price tag.

Mellis Haward, director at Archio
So the billion-pound office building beat the crafted community centre, and some would say that the judges made the wrong decision.

We may need a decade or so to warm to the aesthetics, but a deserved winner nonetheless

But the prize is for the architectural design, not for the reason for the building. Bloomberg HQ sets wildly high standards for the sustainability of office buildings internationally, and does this while being a good neighbour. We may all need a decade or so to warm to the aesthetics, but a deserved winner nonetheless.

Rory Olcayto, chief executive, Open-City and Open House

Rory olcayto stirlnig response

Rory Olcayto’s Stirling Prize  response

Tony Barton, chairman of Donald Insall Associates
Congratulations to the full team, who worked with this most enlightened and engaged of clients, to deliver a building that deserves to win the award for the best building in the UK. The building comfortably takes its place in the grain of the City of London, from where it really matters, street level. That it is a tour de force that manages to live elegantly and with some modesty, with its neighbours is a triumph of architectural design.

Jeremy Young, director of Featherstone Young Architects
A £1 billion bankers vanity project seems a really poor choice for the Stirling - sending a strangely off-beat note about the profession and its priorities in this time of increasing inequality.

A £1 billion bankers vanity project seems a really poor choice for the Stirling

The award should be about architectural achievement foremost and all great architecture should be both immaculately executed (as this building clearly is) but also as creating a generous social and civic benefit - its hard to see how this building can be seen to contribute to the latter except by creating an even more expensive porch for the homeless to sleep in.

Chris Boyce, director and founder of Assorted Skills + Talents*
I cant help but feel that we have witnessed the anointing of an old god by his reverent new disciples; while Bloomberg is a technical masterpiece surely its more suited to win the AJ specification award and a BCO or two, not a Stirling prize.

As a profession we are impressed by good design and meaning together, and to celebrate both is the purpose of the eclectic Stirling Prize for me.

To reward architects and clients who work hard to have an impact, however subtle, on the lives of people around them regardless of programme. Those who strive to lift the quality of good design to be great design worthy of a Stirling Prize, are the same architects and designers who will find a way to impact on or resonate in the community for which they design.

Bloomberg is a massive ego build, and its very impressive, but it its simply a temple of greed, gilded by a business genius, for a global financial titan.

It doesn’t speak to me, or for me.

Andy Young, Technical Director, Bjarke Ingels Group, London                                                                                                                            Aesthetically, Bloomberg is not entirely compatible with my own prejudices, but I do find it absolutely remarkable. Whilst it was undoubtedly expensive, clearly the ambitions of the client and the architect have both been achieved with panache, resulting in a magnificent building. On that basis, Bloomberg is surely no less worthy than the other shortlisted buildings, all of which are great works in their own right. Bloomberg was chosen over all of them by the judges and I see that as a valid and understandable decision.



Readers' comments (6)

  • Phil Parker

    The Stirling prize in recent years has become almost anti-mainstream architecture - Peter and Goliath - under the assumption by most of the very small practitioners who service the selection process that big architecture can’t be any good and this is our way at getting back at the big architects. Hence the bizarre shortlist’s over recent years and most bizarrely, the award being given to a pier last year and before that, an exhibition in the North of England. All that devalues the award and says more about the RIBA not managing the judging process and not harnessing the value of such a high proclaimed award.

    Many of the judges who visit the buildings have had no direct experience of large scale buildings- many are the sandal wearing, part time teaching fraternity with all their little axes to grind. This is unfortunate and dilutes the Stirling’s ability to to really showcase great British architecture.

    I felt it quite disingenuous that one of the correspondents above should hinting at ‘inappropriateness’ when the Stirling winning building was mired by a raft of poor publicity, delays and change of use that did little to promote good British Architecture. The Stirling prize miraculously survived this but I doubt it can survive, despite the noyable exception this year, it’s been taken over by architects who don’t really build but have time to visit. We all know who they are.

    Perhaps the prize should be awarded every three years and like s good wine, give time for the crud and sediment to fall away,

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  • Its a beautiful piece of craftsmanship, a hide tide mark in workspace design, the epitome of corporate architecture. For £1,300,000,000 that is how it should be. Foster were the right architects for this project and have proven that with the right budget and their approach this kind of building can be built in the UK. However.... As with so many great buildings in history they represent the epoch in which they were created. This building represents, in my view, a soon to be outdated mode of hard nosed corporate power and is in essence the very best of how things used to be done. Starting from first principles today, with the same budget, would any large business with a long term eye on Global Warming and sustainability, staff working and lifestyle changes, advancing communications technology and long term energy security do this again? I don't believe so and am excited to see, post Google and Apple HQ, where these types are issues take us - maybe not as far as Bourneville but perhaps a few more steps towards it.

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  • I wholeheartedly agree with Phil Parker. The mean mouthed social justice warrior reviews chosen above by the AJ and RIBA establishment, to the exclusion of others, does nothing to celebrate the spectacular things that architects can achieve that others cannot. The creation of a design company that can orchestrate such a building is not born overnight and it takes a determined and single- minded profession-leader to do it. So celebrate it instead of showing bitching envy. I think the pier was most unappealing and had none of the design bravura of a great Victorian pier. It didn't create a memorable icon and went un-noticed to the broader public nationally, and in that sense didn't have the ability to act as a flagship to show the public that architects should be used instead of the rag tag of others who are invading our role with less inspired outcomes. A tad harsh, but if the RIBA is to front the BUSINESS of architecture so that we can all prosper, it needs to seriously re-consider how it can affect the level of mediocrity in the areas where the bulk of the profession work: monster cottage private housing and dreary workplace buildings. Areas that are sneered at by the overtly left leaning sjw architectural media and institutions. However, I would applaud some of the above reviewers such as Alan Dunlop who straddle the divide with good outcomes.

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  • Chris Roche

    I have been arguing for years that the Stirling Prize "concept" is not fit for purpose and needs a radical rethink. Clearly you cannot compare chalk with cheese and to do so risks alienating the wider public's understanding and appetite for Architecture. Ed Jones (above) beat me to the point that the Stirling Prize needs to evolve into a wider platform "the oscars" of Architecture, celebrating the best architecture within a number of widely different genre. If done well the profession may be able to recapture TV interest beyond a 5 minute slot on the BBC news channel. Bloomberg is a brilliant building and has been uncritically compared to St. Paul's - ironic as they serve different faiths.

    Chris Roche / Founder 11.04 Architects

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  • Reinstating Watling Street, restricting height, a new approach to movement in the building, preserving the Temple of Mithras, connecting to the underground system and being a good neighbour. The building itself demonstrates exceptional testing and analysis of materials, air movement, internal environment, artworks not security barriers and a novel approach to street lighting.

    Apart from the extraordinary budget and committed intelligent client and designer, both to be applauded, is this what constitutes great architecture?

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  • joseph b fitzgerald

    Alan Dunlop has the answer to the 2018 Stirling Prize and I believe that Jim Stirling would have chosen the Niall McLaughlin entry !!!
    Joe FitzGerald FRIBA

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