Last year, it went to Astley Castle in Warwickshire. In 2010, The MAXXI in Rome scooped it. Back in 1997, the honour went to Stuttgart Music School. We’re talking about the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) Stirling Prize — awarded to the architect(s) of the building deemed to have made the greatest contribution to the evolution of architecture over the past year.
This time around, three London buildings are on the shortlist of six, namely The Shard, London Aquatics Centre and Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at London School of Economics (LSE).
Of these, The Shard is perhaps the most obvious choice. It’s currently the tallest building in western Europe, and has that all important Marmite factor, which tends to get people drooling or otherwise spitting feathers.
Why is London Aquatics Centre up for nomination at all, seeing as it was already hosting the likes of Rebecca Adlington and Tom Daley in 2012? That’s because the architects wanted to wait until its refit into a public pool, which has now been completed. It’s a graceful building alright, but maybe they should repair the signage before the awards ceremony.
Saw Swee Hock Student Centre at LSE is the lesser-known London nomination, but in architectural circles, the perforated brick building has gained adulation for the way in which it hasn’t starved neighbours of natural light. Could this erudite underdog steal the show?
Though all European Union, RIBA-chartered architects are eligible for the Stirling award, this year it’s a UK whitewash — the other three nominations are Liverpool’s Everyman Theatre, the Library of Birmingham and Manchester School of Art.
The prize is awarded on 16 October at RIBA, Portland Place, London.