Dan Stewart’s guide to the form

The lack of a clear favourite in this year’s Stirling prize reflects the fact that many of the architects are relative newcomers to the black-tie world of hefty dinners and speeches.

Four of the six have never been nominated for the Stirling prize before, although Zaha Hadid has twice been a runner-up.

So which deserves to win? Denton Corker Marshall’s Civil Justice Centre is probably the favourite because it reconfigures all ideas of what a court building should look like and has provided a landmark for Manchester.

Feilden Clegg Bradley’s Accordia scheme is a graceful piece of housing, but could be too conservative for this jury’s tastes.

You can never discount Zaha, although public opinion says the Nordpark is one of her lesser works.

Allies and Morrison’s restoration of the Royal Festival Hall may be elegantly done, but will the judges really give the award to a refurb?

The Grimshaw station is a bit of an unknown entity, but maybe it’s about time the practice’s high-tech vision was recognised by the Stirling jury.

My money, though, will be on Allford Hall Monaghan Morris’ Westminster Academy building. Not necessarily because it’s the most beautiful of this year’s designs, but because a win for this building would be a vote of confidence for academic design. Given Cabe, the RIBA and the government’s concerns about the future of design in education, a victory for this bold academy is the politically savvy choice.