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Weekend roundup: Beige tide sweeps the Stirling shortlist

Simon Aldous’s take on the big architectural stories of the week: Stirling shortlist • Tim Ronalds dumped at Bradford • Grayson Perry • Grenfell police interviews • Haringey regen axed • Railway museum contest scrapped

Last year’s Stirling Prize didn’t quite pan out as one would have hoped. A few angry Scots aside, most felt dRMM’s elegantly sparse restoration of Hastings Pier was a worthy winner. 

But barely two months later the pier had gone into receivership and last month was sold to entrepreneur Abid Gulzar, whose previous record with Eastbourne Pier has not inspired confidence in its future stewardship. 

None of this year’s six contenders feels anything like as precarious, though the shortlist is striking in its predilection for higher-education schemes, which make up half the list. 

Several people have commented on the overwhelming beigeness of the buildings, with Sheffield University lecturer Florian Kossak posting this colour swatch on Twitter.

Stirlingcolours wbvsn

Stirlingcolours wbvsn

Critically appraising the buildings, the AJ’s Jon Astbury is particularly enthused by MUMA’s Storey’s Field Community Centre and Nursery in Cambridge – which is also the bookies’ early favourite – while also applauding Níall McLaughlin’s Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre in Oxford and Jamie Fobert’s Tate St Ives extension.  

But he’s curious as to just why Henley Halebrown’s Chadwick Hall for the University of Roehampton made the list; and positively glacial about the inclusion of Fosters’ Bloomberg HQ which while ‘a great collection of products and gimmicks … is architecturally vapid’.  

And which high-profile projects have been excluded? RSHP’s Cheesegrater was in contention, but having opened more than four years ago, had probably missed its moment. A more surprising omission was Amanda Levete’s Exhibition Road Quarter for the V&A, which the museum this week credited for bringing in a ‘new wave’ of visitors by providing a ‘less scary’ entrance.  

Peering into his crystal ball last month, the AJ’s Rob Wilson picked five likely contenders for the Stirling, of which an impressive four have made the cut, including Tate St Ives, Bloomberg and the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre – ‘but I’d put my money this year on MUMA’s Storey’s Field Community Centre and Nursery in Cambridge, a really exceptional one.’  

The winner will be announced on 10 October.   

Poll: Which scheme would you like to win the Stirling? 

  • Storey’s Field Community Centre and Nursery, Cambridge by MUMA 
  • Bloomberg, London by Foster + Partners 
  • Bushey Cemetery, Hertfordshire by Waugh Thistleton Architects 
  • New Tate St Ives, by Jamie Fobert Architects with Evans & Shalev 
  • The Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre, Oxford by Níall McLaughlin Architects 
  • Chadwick Hall, University of Roehampton, London by Henley Halebrown 

Vote here 

Last week’s poll asked which ‘counterintuitive’ measure the new housing minister should adopt to reduce the shortage of social housing. The overwhelming winner with 52 per cent of votes was ‘abolish right to buy’, 27 per cent said ‘outlaw all second homes’, while an unimpressive 12 per cent favoured the Schumachian option of scrapping planning controls.

The music stops for Tim Ronalds

Bradford odeon tim ronalds

Bradford odeon tim ronalds

Tim Ronalds is not a happy man. Having spent the last seven years working on a scheme to revamp Bradford’s disused Odeon Cinema, he has firmly been given the old heave-ho in favour of Aedas. 

Ronalds had been working with businessman Lee Craven, whose Bradford Live organisation won a bid to turn the 1930s landmark into a 4,000-capacity music venue. The scheme won planning in 2014 and in March secured £4 million of government funding via the Northern Cultural Regeneration fund. 

‘We assembled a great team, invested a lot of time and money and worked for seven years helping to get it to the point when it would become a reality,’ said Ronalds. ‘Just when all that was needed was in place – an operator, funding and support – we lost the project through an absurd OJEU process.’ 

The tender called for an architect to take forward the £15 million scheme and develop the designs from RIBA Stage 3 onwards.

On Twitter, RCKa’s Russell Curtis called the switch ‘appalling’ adding that ‘Aedas should be ashamed of themselves’. But should they? We don’t, of course, know why Aedas was preferred to Tim Ronalds, but it was clearly the decision of the client. 

Curtis points out that the Draft London Plan suggests introducing ‘architect retention clauses’ to prevent designers being ditched in this manner. 

It brings to mind the tortuous process Jamie Fobert Architects had to go through to secure its Stirling-nominated Tate St Ives project – winning the commission, then having to apply all over again when the scheme was rethought. Five other practices were shortlisted in the rerun competition. Should they also have been ashamed of themselves?

Put it another way: if Marks Barfield had won the competition to design the Garden Bridge, would we have been lamenting the sidelining of Thomas Heatherwick after he had put all that hard work into devising the initial idea as well as valiantly helping seek sponsorship?

Also this week:

Artists' house webvision

Artists’ house webvision

• Artist Grayson Perry is championing a new affordable housing scheme for artists in Barking, east London. The project (pictured above), designed by architecture studio Apparata, will comprise a community arts centre, studio spaces, and 12 ‘affordable’ flats leased at 65 per cent of the local market rent for selected artists who will run the community centre and who Perry will help to choose.  

• Detectives investigating the Grenfell Tower fire have carried out three interviews ‘under caution’ in relation to potential criminal offences, including gross negligence manslaughter and corporate manslaughter. While they did not name the interviewees, last July the Metropolitan Police said there were ‘reasonable grounds’ to suspect the local council and its tenant management organisation of corporate manslaughter.  

 The London Borough of Haringey has voted to cancel its £2 billion housing deal with developer Lendlease. The proposed Haringey Development Vehicle was criticised by Labour’s National Executive in January, and the leader of the Labour-run council resigned shortly after. Last May’s council elections resulted in a strong majority against the deal. The council has now voted to establish a wholly-owned development company. Last week, Lendlease threatened legal action if the project was abandoned.  

• A competition to design a major overhaul of York’s National Railway Museum has been scrapped after the Heritage Lottery Fund rejected a funding application for the project. The £12 million scheme would have revamped the museum’s 8,300m² Great Hall exhibition space. A shortlist of firms had been drawn up for the £600,000 tender but not yet invited to the next stage of the process.  

Simon Aldous’s Weekend Roundup takes its summer break from next week. It will return in September with a comprehensive account of the architectural goings-on during the holidays. To have the newsletter emailed to you every Saturday morning, click here to find out more about our subscription packages