Arts, craft and architecture

“Architecture is about people,” declares our Health Lead and Senior Architect, Lee Holmes. Here, he reflects on how the run-up to the Stirling Prize announcement showed that the profession is referencing its past as it heads into the future. Are we on the cusp of change?

An evening of presentations by all six nominees of this year’s Stirling Prize took place at the unlikely setting of an Everyman cinema in York.

The event stood as a unified front for the common good and promotion of the profession as nominee, Niall McLaughlin, pointed out during his presentation of the Sultan Nazrin Shah Centre. Theirs was a panel of camaraderie rather than of competition – a lesson for us all.

But this didn’t feel like architectural posturing. It felt like unity. It looked and sounded like it too. The shortlisted six shared more than a stage. They could be viewed as cohesive events; significant landmarks on a path towards a more considered and dextrous architectural expression.

Is it any coincidence that the shortlisted schemes all shared a commonality despite their very different briefs, budgets and typologies? The commonality apparent in the shortlisted six was one of a focussed return to the craft of architecture. Craft is about people. Architecture is about people.

The recent announcement of the winner has been met with some criticism and sour responses. And yet, Bloomberg’s European headquarters should not be decried for having a phenomenal budget, an army of consultants along with a progressive and visionary client.

Paul Finch’s recent article in the Architects’ Journal rightly defends the winner as “jaw-dropping in its ambition and achievement”. Yes, this maybe a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity that all but a minority of practices globally will ever experience. However, the journey the project took to resolution shared common ground with all the five worthy nominees.

An emphasis on conversation and collaboration during the design process through hand sketching, and model making coupled with a reluctance to progress too quickly into the constraints of the digital era was evident within all the nominee presentations. This embrace of design from first principles is sadly often viewed as production time lost in many commercial practices. The reduction in ‘non-productive’ time invariably proves to be a commercial false economy as problems arise and are dealt with retrospectively.

At Box Architects, we are focused on commercial, creative delivery. These key drivers underpin all our projects: seeing the balance between the commercial and the creative manifest in the delivery of our projects.

Projects are about people. We therefore take the time and pace projects to deliver effective results for our clients, stakeholders and fellow consultants.