Architectural prizes: love them or hate them? In New Zealand, we seem to have a growing number – of course, the more you have, the lesser the value to those that get selected. We have, of course, the NZIA, and their award giving scheme. At one stage, many years ago, only one prize was given out in the whole of the country: a Gold Medal for the architecture (or, perhaps, the architect). Some years they (anonymous judges) gave out none. Really? Nothing in the whole country that was good enough to award? They must have had high standards in those days… or perhaps just a different attitude to rewarding merit.
Rumour has it that today, in NCEA, anyone can get Achieved, or Merit. To actually really excel at something – oooh, frowned upon – that’s skiting. And to a certain extent, that’s true with the national institutes that give out awards. NZIA awards have some kudos (arguably), both at the local level and the national level. And there is still only one winner of the grand prize at the end of the night come awards time: the Gold Medal goes to…. Well, not me, that’s for sure. Someone else. Perhaps, oooh, someone male, someone old and grey and ever so wise.
There are the Architectural Centre Awards of course, given out just once in the last 64 years – in fact, given out for the entire last 60 years. Fantastic – now that’s class – you really know that if you have got one of those, you must be good. Or god.
Then there are the awards from organisations like the Master Builders, the Certified Builders, the New Zealand Institute of Building, IPENZ, the Property Council, the Department for the Environment, etc, etc, etc. One could say, if one was a curmudgeon, that perhaps there are too many awards, for too many things, and that just possibly, some organisations judging criteria are more than just a little suspect. Far be it for me to cast aspertions on someone else’s impunity, but apparently the Inner City Bypass received an award. Well, yes, maybe for sheer quantity and quality of concrete poured it would qualify – but really? A worthy winner?
There’s only one way to really tell a good award from a bad one then, and that’s if there is lots of prize money involved. And so it is with great delight that I refer you to the Stirling Prize shortlist, right here:
a great article in the Guardian. Yes, British awards for British architects, doing mostly British projects I am afraid. Read them and weep. And then think to yourself: hold on a minute…. could I do better than that…?