After the Stirling Prize televising on Saturday night I wrote a blog post about what non- architects thought about it (the TV programme and the awards). The post has garnered some great comments and I wanted to look at these and pose a new question which we might be able to use to generate some ideas here.
Darren asked a great question about public opinion, and yes, there is a public vote on the RIBA website, though I didn’t know about this myself in advance. The Ashmolean Museum won the public vote, by the way (Neues Museum was second).
Martin Brown made a great point about how limiting the programme made the award criteria seem – or were they really that limiting?
From the Stirling Prize description on the RIBA Website:
“is presented to the architects of the building which has been the most significant for the evolution of architecture in the past year.”
From the RIBA press release on the shortlisting:
“The shortlisted buildings will be judged on a range of criteria including design vision, innovation and originality, capacity to stimulate engage and delight occupants and visitors, accessibility and sustainability, how fit the building is for its purpose and the level of client satisfaction.”
Not much there about the life of the building then, Martin.
So where do we go from here?
Yes, the awards are about the architecture (not the structural design, thanks for clearing that up guys) and the RIBA want to award the architect. OK I don’t mind that. What bothers me about them is how they get televised and what that says to the public about what matters to the RIBA about architecture. (And I guess, what it says to everyone about what matters about architecture).
I love architecture, and being an ordinary person who fell into it rather than having it passed down in my genes or injected at birth, I think ordinary people can ‘get’ architecture and benefit from it. They certainly suffer from the failures, so why not?
With this in mind I think we could think of much better content for the BBC’s architecture budget (if they have one) than televising what Chris Witte pointed out to us is just a tiny part of the prize giving.
Alternative, Useful TV shows
We already have some great ideas coming out of the comments in the last post – here are some of my thoughts so far:
- How about a TV series to demonstrate the myriad of complexities of modern buildings and how teams work together to make them happen?
- How about a TV show about how architecture actually makes money (not just saves it) and much more than it costs? Money has a place here too.
- How about a TV show that investigate how building lifespans have changed – how they are calculated, evaluated and designed, and all the technology and teamwork (and financials) that go into that?
- How about a programme about the problems of adapting old buildings and how good design can solve them? This is a great subject because of course everyone loves old buildings but no-one has any money…do they?
- This week there was a huge furore about an Essex hospital spending money on art – where are the programmes about the value of art and architecture to health?
- How about programmes about the great new ideas organisations like the Development Trusts Association are growing for using the empty buildings in our high streets, bringing architecture into these?
I could go on… what are your ideas? How could the tired old formulae benefit from an injection of truly creative design which makes you go ‘wow! I didn’t know you could do that…’?
David Sharpe says
Thought about it for a while, and rather than suggest some ideas of my own, can I express my full support and throw my weight behind yours?
And at over 1kN hope that helps (sorry, structural engineering ‘humour’)
In all seriousness, I think half the problem we have is that most non-construction people think what we do in the building industry is easy, something they could turn their hands to if they put their mind to it. Just think of the various property development and grand design type programmes that have people start off thinking they can do it all themselves – whether by firing the architect, or taking on the role of project manager or management contractor. How many get to the end on time, to budget, with a good quality outcome? Not that many.
But how to show the way we work on every day building design and construction projects, that will grab the attention of an audience, and thus make good TV? Would it be helpful at least to talk to the production companies that make the TV shows I mentioned above, and find out what they think?
I’ve had a go getting the TV companies attention on twitter but they aren’t listening (or at least, they don’t want to respond).
Never mind, an opportunity may yet present itself. They can have one of our ideas and say it was their own!
Richard Salmon says
Perhaps rather than going through a single build done properly, perhaps a more agreeable format would be the “10 simple rules” type shows with “entertainment value” provided by examples of what happens when you don’t follow the “rules”?
Or something like that…….
Interesting concept, makes one think about how they manage to get people to go on TV too. Why would one want to show off a building failure?
Number list make great TV, and great blog posts!
Matthew Franklin says
As an architect I have a big concern that the media version of architecture is not nearly realistic enough to benefit the profession and the construction industry, especially at the ‘small scale’ level.
I read in a past Architects Journal that research showed that shows like Grand Designs decreased the number of people employing architects which is not what you would expect, but when you think about it you can see hwy people might choose to do things on their own.
I think a good TV show needs to take architecture of it’s pedestal and appeal to people beyond those that are building a house, in the trade, or interested in the subject.
A ‘Top Gear’ for architecture would be good, complete with Clarkson style reviews, although how this might work I am not quite sure. For me it’s about making architecture more accessible to non architects.
Angela Carr says
Great post Su, and you’ve raised a really interesting point about how architects are represented on television and how we choose to represent ourselves and our work generally.
I think there is a huge problem with how we communicate our value and I’m not surprised that the number of people employing architects is dropping. I had this discussion on Twitter just recently – clients will happily spend £20k for a ‘designer’ kitchen but resent paying the same for a well designed extension, because they know why they need a kitchen but not why they need an architect. And as I’ve said many times before, design is about how something works and not just how it looks.
I’d like to see a programme that talks about the keys aspects of architecture – space, light and structure – helping people to understand how these work. So much of what people experience as building is poorly designed – if they were able to read the built environment more effectively, they would in a position to demand higher standards.
Grand Designs is rarely presented from the architects point of view, except when the client is an architect, as the drama is in the journey of the client. The Home Show does give the architect’s point of view but in an, ooo – ah, ‘gameshow’ kind of format – ‘Will George be able to meet his client’s requirements in 3 days with only £xx to spend?’
The role of an architect is a complex one – I’d like to see a magazine style programme that covers lots of different aspects of our work – design, spatial awareness, planning, energy improvement, DIY etc. If we make our world more familiar and comprehensible, more people will feel comfortable engaging on the issues we feel are important and which deserve more public input.
This thread sparked my thinking