`Bug-eyed' Lord's press centre wins top design prize

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The Independent Online
THE GLASS-EYED, bulbous press centre set on a stalk above Lord's cricket ground was awarded the prestigious Stirling Prize for architecture last night .

The NatWest Media Centre, built to house journalists covering matches at the home of English cricket, was hailed as "an instant icon" by the judges.

They said that they liked the way it communicated the Marylebone Cricket Club's (MCC) belief in the future of the game and its almost irreverent contrast with the traditional pavilion it faces.

Architects Jan Kaplicky and Amanda Levete, the husband and wife team called Future Systems, were presented with pounds 20,000 by the Scottish junior minister for culture, Rhona Brankin, in Glasgow last night.

The judges said that the centre was "already a TV personality, its own thing, completely unusual and totally uncompromising. It is a breath of architectural fresh air."

But rave reviews from the judges ignored the people's choice for the annual award to mark the building deemed to have made the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year.

The public, invited for the first time to vote online for eight shortlisted buildings, wanted the Reichstag designed by Lord Foster of Thames Bank to win. They loved the beautiful glass cupola he set atop the classical German parliament building in Berlin.

The winner was prefabricated in Falmouth and Rotterdam boat yards. Its semi-monocoque form of construction uses boat builders' techniques to mould its curves. But unlike the construction of a boat hull the centre was assembled 15 metres in the air on site, cantilevered from concrete columns on to ribs and spars. No steel joists or columns spoil its pod- like interior which, the architects explained, was inspired by a 1950s Chevrolet.

External glare, which has been known to stop cricket matches elsewhere, is avoided by tilting the glass facade through 25 degrees.

The centre also won a second prize, client of the year, in recognition of the MCC, which commissioned the building. This was despite the MCC project director, Brian Thornton, resigning this year because the pounds 500,000 building came in late and over budget. He said that it was "well worth it".

Runner-up for the Stirling Prize was the Museum of Scotland in Edinburgh designed by Benson and Forsyth Architects.

The pounds 45m Scottish stone museum extension is a landmark in the capital, which is advertising its new-found independence with buildings, including the new Scottish Parliament from the Catalan architect Enrico Miralles.

The pounds 5,000 Stephen Lawrence Prize was won by Munkenbeck & Marshall for their sculpture gallery at Roche Court in Wiltshire. The light- filled gallery cantilevers from the existing, listed wall of an orangery so that its roof appears to float among the trees.

The Royal Institute of British Architects' president, Marco Goldschmied, whose Trust sponsored the Lawrence prize, said the prize given for buildings for under pounds 500,000 was named in memory of the murdered black teenager who wanted to become an architect.

Sir David Steel, Speaker of the Scottish Parliament, was asked to present this year's prizes but pulled out at the last minute, saying he did not know enough about architecture.

Stepping into his shoes, MsBrankin said: "As I am discovering from my involvement with architecture, it is not an activity for the nervous or the faint-hearted. In the status that it has acquired, I think that the Stirling Prize reflects this."