For the fourth year in the last five, Wales is unrepresented in the RIBA National Awards. But that’s no reason to architecturally write off the nation, argues Kristian Hyde
I wouldn’t agree that there is a Welsh drought, certainly not from the design-based studios we speak to in the region. Yes, some years the work may gravitate towards the border and well beyond. You have to follow the money, but the practices producing the work are based in Wales; as our practice grows we receive more and more interest from across the bridge. West Wales-based practice Rural Office for Architecture is a great example of this, picking up an RIBA National Award this year for Caring Wood in Kent.
Without doubt, there has been a recent emergence of good quality architecture from practices based in Wales. You only have to look at last year’s Stirling Prize shortist to see proof – the Outhouse, while built just across the border was conceived by Loyn & Co, a practice from Wales.
The RIBA Awards have always represented quality, and this will always fluctuate owing to an infinite number of variables: economy, luck, timing …
There are a handful of practices producing solid consistent and relevant work, and for the nation’s size that’s something we should be proud of
As Rem Koolhaas would say: ‘Architecture is a very complex effort’ – and don’t we know it. The world is speeding up, but authentic and rigorous architecture takes time. Years pass from conception to final building and if you are located in a sparsely populated region, there will inevitably be a random series of award entries and winners with the usual ups and downs, conforming to no apparent logic.
Apart from a dip in award entries this year, I don’t think we have anything to worry about in terms of the Welsh nation’s design output. There are a handful of practices with heads down producing solid consistent and relevant work, and for the nation’s size that’s something we should be proud of.
These things are like waves, they come in sets and are never consistent and patience is always rewarded.
Footnote: The AJ published its top 10 buildings of 2016, the second was by a Welsh practice, Outhouse by Loyn and Co. Number 8 was John Pawson’s Life House, a countryside retreat in mid Wales. Not bad for a small nation’s output in one year.
Kristian Hyde is director of Hyde + Hyde Architects and unit leader at the Welsh School of Architecture