Welcome to the Game of Architecture. A game of fame and fortune. David Neustein in writing about Conrad Newel’s blog Notes on Becoming a Famous Architect, says Newel attempts to deconstruct the mythology of the “starchitect.” A recent post, entitled “The deceptive paradox that is the Zumthor brand,” describes how Peter Zumthor has skilfully engaged the press in order to construct the image of an architect disinterested in publicity. Writes Newel: “Any publicist will tell you that the first rule of making a name for yourself or managing your image is: Be nice to people, but bend over backwards for the press.”
To become famous one must win an award. And vice versa. The culture of the architectural award is intertwined with the machinations of the press. Amongst our burgeoning office spam are congratulatory invitations from publishing houses that sponsor design awards ceremonies feeding off architecture’s ego. An invitation to an institutional dinner celebrating your shortlisting is in fact a long-list invoice to ‘fine dine the fame game’. As an example, for the 2012 New London Awards individual tickets are £150 +VAT, discounted table prices set at £2000 +VAT. Yet that’s merely eating Waitrose cuisine heated to beyond Sketch prices.
If WHAT_architecture were to design an award, what would it be awarded for? Probably not to an architect, an architectural practice or a building as there are plenty of awards already in circulation for those but more likely to an insightful client or building user without which architecture cannot exist.
European Hotel Design Awards (13 categories, £199 per project)
WAN Interiors Annual Awards (14 categories, £250 per project)
World Architecture Festival Awards (43 categories, $730 per project discounted to $2,374 for 4 project entries)
AR+D Awards for Emerging Architecture (£180 per project)
LEAF Awards (12 categories, £300 per project, awards dinner table £2,200 for ten people of £275 per person)