Summer seems to be the time for architectural competitions: business is slow and gossip is rife. Hence they always seem to generate controversy and this year is no different.
The RIBA Stirling Prize shortlist is out and the odds (2/1) are on the Velodrome, created for the 2012 Olympics. However many are crying foul because no other small interesting buildings have been nominated.The Velodrome deserves an Olympic Gold 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.
Two of the other candidates are retro-fitted buildings, perhaps reflecting the austerity measures being taken in the face of the UK economy. The Angel building was stripped back to its frame and re-built as a speculative office building.
The 1932 Royal Shakespeare Theatre was intended to be demolished, instead they overhauled the existing building and added a new stage.
Zaha Hadid is nominated for one of the most expensive academy schools ever built, not her Olympic Aquatics Centre, and David Chipperfield for an art gallery in Germany. Irish architects O'Donnell & Tuomey are nominated for the first Irish-language cultural centre in the UK.
Many critics are upset by the list. For the first time ever, all the nominees have been at least nominated for the prize which leaves little room for new innovative architects. As one architect, who spoke for many, said: "it is a safe, boring and predictable list with a lot of names that have been on it before. It sends a strange message to the powers that be who don't understand what design is about. It reinforces architecture as a rich person's activity."
As for the bad and ugly, we have the annual Carbuncle Cup, named after Prince Charles' comment that a building looked like a "a monstrous carbuncle on the face of a beloved friend"
This year's nominees are rolling in. Included is One Hyde Park, the world's most expensive residential building (what!). It has been described as "glistening silo of sheikhs" with the "barren feel of a corporate plaza" and "What is shocking is that, after five years in the making and a £500 million construction cost, it is quite so bad." Another is the newly opened £72M Museum of Liverpool "a crumpled quilt of stone stretched back and forth until it sufficiently destroys the city's majestic waterfront." Let the fun begin.