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RIBA Award winners should be proud of their achievement

Christine Murray
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Successful projects have run the gauntlet to earn one of the most coveted of accolades in architecture, says Christine Murray

What do the RIBA National Awards mean to you? In conversation I’ve heard both your disappointment at ‘not even winning a regional’ and your boasting about scooping a National Award. The institute’s prizes remain among the most coveted of accolades, rewarding not only great design, but great building, with the execution of the detail just as critical to a project’s achievement.

We used to hear quiet grumblings, too, about which projects had unfairly been left off the list. Now that the profession is well and truly established on social media, we can expect fierce debate on an annual basis about projects that didn’t make the cut. Facebook and Twitter may yet emerge as the prime way for RIBA members to ruffle the institute’s feathers and get their voices heard.

In this issue, we analyse the make-up of this year’s winners and what they tell us about the shape of the profession. What we’ve found is that this year’s awards are dominated by campus buildings (26 per cent) – unsurprising, given the money invested in university facilities since tuition fees were introduced, and given the rush to attract foreign students. There are very few awards given to projects outside London and the South East – not a single award in Wales and the West Midlands, and just one each in the North East and Northern Ireland, a sad reflection of the level of investment in quality architecture in these regions.

While you value the RIBA judging process as the most rigorous out there, some adjustments should be made

We also take a look at the judging process of the RIBA Awards five years after former head of awards Tony Chapman shuffled the process into the current hierarchy. What we’ve found is that while you value the RIBA judging process as the most rigorous out there, some adjustments should be made in light of this year’s controversy surrounding the overlooking of FAT with Grayson Perry’s A House for Essex. Further involvement of the national judges and training courses for judges or chairs would help to smooth out inconsistencies in decisions taken at regional level.

The AJ has long supported the RIBA National awards and RIBA Stirling Prize as professional media partner, celebrating its winners as part of our shared ambition to promote good design. The winners featured in this issue should be proud of their achievement. Your project has run the gauntlet and earned its lead plaque. Installed on your project, this is a public marker not only of your own achievement, but also a testament to the wider construction team, the faith of your client, the planners and the community. Well done.

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