At the Stirling Prize ceremony in October, the RIBA confirmed plans for a new ‘test of time’ award, an accolade to be given to an RIBA award-winning building from a prior year
Though time frames and judging criteria have yet to be announced, this is a most welcome initiative.
An important measure of a building’s success is how robust and durable it proves to be over the years, as well as its flexibility in adapting to changing needs. This means taking on board the potentially conflicting views of the original client, the current owner, occupants, the people who look after the building, the public and the profession.
It also means drilling down into subjective perceptions of comfort and wellbeing.
And it means taking a view on what degree of weathering of materials is appropriate, and looking at how a building has bedded into its surroundings. – has it improved the neighbourhood?
To fully assess performance, this award should ideally recognise a building with quantifiable metrics (similar to the American Institute of Architects COTE Top Ten Plus award, now in its second year). A building that is being monitored with real-time data can be fine-tuned over the seasons and years as circumstances change.
An award is inevitably a snapshot, albeit an informed one. The ‘test of time’ award could go one step further, by setting the stage for actual monitoring and occupant surveys of the shortlisted buildings.
Bearing in mind the Farrell Review’s call for joint education in architecture and engineering, students in these disciplines could be engaged to jointly undertake revisits of Britain’s best buildings. I will dream on.