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Stirling result is ‘disastrous’, says Stephen Lawrence Prize winner

Anna liu
  • 5 Comments

Anna Liu has described the Bloomberg building’s Stirling Prize victory as a ‘disastrous result’ which could yet be turned into a positive if client and architect shared details of its innovative features

The co-founder of Tonkin Liu, who picked up the Stephen Lawrence Prize at the Stirling ceremony on Wednesday (10 October) with her colleagues for the practice’s ‘breathtaking’ Old Shed New House, said she felt it was important that the debate sparked by the £1.3 billion building’s win should continue in a ‘robust’ way and should not ‘degenerate into architectural bias and backbiting’.

But she questioned how the Bloomberg building could ‘lead the way for better and better architecture, in years to come?’

Liu’s challenge was backed by the Stirling Prize jury’s sustainability adviser Simon Sturgis, who said publishing sustainability data from the landmark project would help the industry to learn valuable lessons.

Liu told the AJ: ‘For me, not having seen any of the buildings other than Bloomberg, this strikes me as a disastrous result.

‘I have great admiration for Foster’s work and for the ethos set out by Bloomberg. The building has failed to live up to both.’

She added that good architecture should be about delivering an ‘integrated holistic entity’ rather than a series of innovative fragments.

And she proposed that such innovative features ‘are shared’, which she said would make the grand and philanthropic agenda pursued by the building’s client and architect ‘even grander’.

‘This will enable innovations to carry, be refined, and become cost-effective, benefiting future projects,’ she said.

Sturgis said Bloomberg was an ‘extraordinary’ building of high-quality design and ‘from that perspective’ was a worthy Stirling Prize winner.

But the sustainability expert added that he hoped it was ‘the last flourish of a high-resource approach to design and construction’.

He said: ‘The embodied carbon footprint of the finished building is going to be a significant multiple of a standard high-quality office building, even taking longevity into account.

‘Secondly and in the context of the recent IPCC report, we as a society cannot afford from a resource efficiency perspective to be building this sort of high resource cost building.

‘Buildings that exhibit true innovation in sustainable design will be made from low-carbon long-life materials with high recycled content. They will be durable, flexible, easy to maintain, deconstruct and reuse. They will of course be ultra-efficient operationally.

‘So my challenge would be for Fosters to publish the embodied carbon footprint and the calculation data of the completed building, including fit-out, both to build and over its whole life cycle, ie a 60 year period.

‘In addition, and in parallel, the operational performance should be published with the measures taken to reduce the emissions.’

The Bloomberg building achieved a BREEAM rating of 98.5 per cent, the highest ever for an office, and Foster & Partners has strongly defended its green credentials.

Project architect Kate Murphy told the AJ it was a counterpoint to today’s throwaway culture, a scheme that is built to last, albeit with a flexible interior.

‘Yes, we had money to spend but we’ve tried to use it in a way that added value and used it in a way that’s more sustainable,’ she said. ‘So the exterior is stone. We are not going to have to repaint it or reclad it.’

RIBA president and Stirling Prize jury member Ben Derbyshire strongly defended the jury’s choice but also acknowleged the value of fully learning the lessons of the Bloomberg HQ, saying he is ’keen to see more details of these beautiful, innovative features.’

Derbyshire added: ’Bloomberg has made an exceptional contribution to the evolution of architecture through the development of its innovations and unique approach to designing on a historic, loaded site.

’The building systems alone are a revelation – tablets that tell you where to find personnel (we tracked down Michael Bloomberg’s own movements on our jury visit), a ceiling that uses decorative aluminium petals to cool incoming air for example. And I’d love to see working details of the hardwood raised floor or the micro-holed panelling that lines the ‘vortex’ entrance lobby.’

Foster + Partners and Bloomberg declined to comment.

  • 5 Comments

Readers' comments (5)

  • Phil Parker

    What bad manners to criticise a building that has fairly won.

    It reminds of the time an unruly yobish American entertainer rushed the stage when Taylor Swift was receiving her award.

    It’s disingenuous and petty.

    If you want to make change, criticise the awarding body, the judges and consider handing your own award back.

    I feel embarrassed to be an architect when I read things like this.

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  • In total agreement with Anna on this. I had the opportunity to see the building inside and outside two weeks ago, and was not impressed in a positive way. It winning the SP is thus a big surprise.

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  • Kieran Gaffney

    I just want to write in support of the importance of critiquing buildings, even ones that win awards. Its right that this building in particular is subject to scrutiny.

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  • Yes, I fully agree with every word Parker said, more over the Project Architect is a woman in Foster's practice ( obviously there is a present progress here) - well done Kate!
    The Bloomberg building is miles ahead of the other contestants.

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  • It is soulless pigeonhole architecture that is so boring the interior is equipped with swirling curves to help relieve it. Failed I'm afraid.

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