The AJ judges discuss what they are looking for in an RIBA Stirling Prize-winning project
The AJ’s alternative jury
- Martyn Evans, property developer
- Daisy Froud, participation and community engagement consultant
- Piers Taylor, founder, Invisible Studio
- Laura Mark, AJ architecture editor
Piers Taylor I was critical when the Sainsbury Laboratory won. We knew that building’s story and to see it represented again as the pinnacle of what we can do made it seem that the game wasn’t being moved on. When Accordia won, I was interested that a housing scheme could win; then when Witherford Watson Mann’s Astley Castle won I was interested in the scheme’s creative re-use aspect. Any winner needs to present a complex and sophisticated response. We need to be surprised and delighted by where the architect takes you.
Laura Mark For me it’s about feeling. That is why we are visiting, rather than looking at photos. When you go inside a really great building you get a feeling. Maybe if you don’t get that, then it’s not the winner.
Martyn Evans Fashions come and go and what is good this year will not be good in 10 years’ time. Also it is difficult to compare a luxury private house with social housing and a private art gallery, so you have to look at the essence: do the principles of each of those buildings teach us anything about how architecture needs to move on? But it is also about political context.
Daisy Froud I’m fascinated by how the architect has responded to the constraints or opportunities of the site. I do have more respect if there has been a challenge. It is so important to visit the projects as the object might respond perfectly to the site constraints, the brief and the client’s desires but it is only when you see these things in use that you really see how the building works.
Piers Taylor If there is a story that is more than just making a nice set of spaces for a client, then we will warm to the building.
Martyn Evans A prize like this is at one level high-falutin’ and at another level it is about delivery of buildings that really matter.
Laura Mark How do you make people care about architecture? Whichever project wins will be talked about by the general public.
Martyn Evans The people who will learn from the winning building are the public, who will demand better buildings, planners, clients, and the media. It is about everybody understanding what is a better building.
Daisy Froud So often the better building for the public is not the better building in the eyes of the architect. We are not judging the same things in terms of the quality of the building.