Velodrome Misses the Gold in Architecture Olympics


Photo: riba

The Velodrome, the jewel of London's 2012 Olympic buildings, did not win the gold in the architecture Olympics. Aka the RIBA Stirling Prize, it's the big architecture prize in the UK.

Instead Zaha Hadid won, but not for her 2012 Olympic building, the Olympic Aquatics Centre. Some are calling foul play and demanding a more open jury process.


Photo: oda

Many architects, including past winners and judges have accused the RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) of having a judging system that is not transparent. One said that the current process did not "hold judges accountable for what they think".

Apparently the jury visits the six short listed buildings then has a secret ballot. There is no public explanation as to why a building was chosen as the overall winner. Many are requesting a process that would include the reasons because they feel that judges should be held accountable for what they think. Instead, all that was given was the citation: "a design that makes kids run into school in the morning."

The architecture world is full of gossip and intrigue; this is big business and big egos after all. As one said "Too often the inevitable but unexplained links between people and projects start unnecessary gossip that undermines the judges' decision and therefore the Stirling Prize's integrity."

So what about the building? It's the Evelyn Grace Academy school. RIBA calls it "a highly imaginative, exciting Academy that shows the students, staff and local residents that they are valued - is what every school should and could be."

Others called it a "nasty irony" and said "You look at the furniture and you have bog standard timber furniture that you'd find in a pub. The people who judged it clearly could not see the real evidence."


Photo: oda

As for the Velodrome, way back in July when the RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist was announced, the odds (2/1) were on the Velodrome. Not only is it a stunning building but it deserves a medal for sustainability. The outside is clad in 5,000 M2 of Western Red Cedar timber to draw a parallel with the timber track inside the venue. It is perforated to allow cooling of the interior. Strategically placed roof windows reduce the need for artificial lighting. Natural ventilation is achieved through openings in the external timber cladding of the venue resulting in substantial carbon emission reductions. Air flows across the 6,000 stands of seats and through the top, being replaced by cool, fresh air from below.

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Architectural Awards for the Good, the Bad, and the Ugly
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Tags: Architects | London | Olympics