The Stirling prize for 2011 has been awarded to the Evelyn Grace Academy, a school in Brixton.
Evelyn Grace was designed by Zaha Hadid, and it marks her second year in a row as the Stirling winner; in 2010 her firm took the prize for MAXXI, a contemporary art museum in Rome. The academy, with a distinctive Z-shaped steel profile and a running track running through the middle, is, according to Angela Brady, president of the Royal Institute of British Architects, "a highly imaginative, exciting academy that shows the students, staff and local residents that they are valued".
The Stirling is awarded each year to the best project by a British architect. The Velodrome was considered to be the favourite (and indeed won the public vote) yet ultimately the judges preferred the south London academy. A not-too subtle riposte to the accusations made by Michael Gove, amongst others, that architects "cream off cash" from the state, perhaps? Either way, this might prove to be a controversial decision, and already there is something of a backlash forming on Twitter from the architectural cognoscenti.
Evelyn Grace Academy is the sixth London building to win the prize in the Stirling's 15-year history. The others are: Lord's Media Centre (1999); Peckham Library (2000); Laban Dance Centre (2003); 30 St Mary Axe, aka the Gherkin (2004); and the Maggie's Centre at Charing Cross Hospital (2009).