Rory Olcayto draws up the shortlist of shortlists
A year has passed since I got the 2012 Stirling Prize shortlist so wrong, which means it’s time to be wrong once again. Last year I scored two out of six.
This year will be tougher still. There’s no leader of the pack - a Shard, or an Aquatics Centre. Neither of those would be on my shortlist anyway, but the mistake I made in 2012 was to pick buildings I wanted to win, rather than pick those most likely to be shortlisted.
There are many strong contenders this year. So many in fact, it’s easier to ditch the attempt to get it right and just draw up a few shortlists to cover all bases. A beard-stroking shortlist for example, would have Witherford Watson Mann’s Astley Castle on it (nice, but hardly Castelvecchio). Niall McLaughlin’s Cuddesdon Chapel (a bit Zumthory, no?). Grafton’s Medical School and Pergola bus shelter (that’s right, don’t forget the bus shelter. In fact why not shortlist the bus shelter by itself as well? It’s sooo amaaazing.) Hackett Hall McKnight’s MAC: dour, self-conscious, worthy as hell, even more serious than Stormont.
If you have a beard, I bet you just stroked it
Maccreanor Lavington’s Hoflaan House (There’s nothing funny to say about this one, although please note, it’s got a classic-sounding exemplar name, it’s in Rotterdam and its designed by an Anglo-Dutch practice. If you have a beard, I bet you just stroked it.)
Now for the safe shortlist. Sponsor friendly. Corporate. Nice. What’s on it? Alison Brook’s Newhall Be: a sales wag might call it added-value housing, and the lay judge on the Stirling prize jury would instantly know what that means. AHMM’s North London Hospice, which, like all of AHMM’s buildings, whether a health centre, school, or office, looks like …an office. (This fits with Simon Allford’s recent claim that architecture’s ‘obsession with typological models is absurd’). Hopkins’ UCH Cancer Care Centre: Rigorous. Solid. Conventional. Boring (which means its chances of winning are high). Quadrant 3, with its functional name, posh client (Crown Estate) and establishment practice (Dixon Jones) is an obvious shoo-in. (Although the architect’s Oxford business school is much more fun). Park Hill’s retrofit by Hawkins\Brown and Studio Egret West is another easy pick: media-friendly, hipster housing, might as well call the Culture Show now. It has developer-friendly architects (who are not crap). It has even played host to a Stirling Prize party (in 2011, when Evelyn Grace won). But a safe shortlist always needs a school. dRMM’s St Alban’s Academy in Birmingham seems right. Let’s have it. Safe. Shortlist. Sorted.
Two more shortlists to go. This one’s for high-tech dreamers, film-loving futurists and perpetual fifth-year student architects. A sci-fi shortlist. That means Pierresvives in Montpellier, because it’s one of Zaha’s best (ever) and feels like a location in a yet-to-be-made French space opera. The Ferrari Museum in Modena, by Future Systems and Shiro Studio (Jan Kaplický’s last project. ‘Nuff said). McAslan’s Olympic Energy Centre (for its fanboy Constructivism). Wilkinson Eyre’s forum in Exeter University (because its fits with my lazy theme). Heneghan Peng’s Giant’s Causeway visitor centre. (The student diagram that somehow got built). Allies and Morrison’s Olympic Masterplan (an open-air prison in the style of JG Ballard).
Finally, there’s the shortlist, my shortlist, chosen behind close doors, so I can’t divulge the reasons why, apart from it comprises my favourites: Hackett Hall McKnight’s MAC. Maclaughlin’s Cuddesdon Chapel. Hadid’s Pierresvives. Gareth Hoskins’ Mareel in Lerwick. AY Architects’ Montpelier Nursery School, London, and Peter Barber’s Beveridge Mews, also in London. Thanks for your patience. (And sorry about all the brackets).