As RIBA president points to jealousy over Zaha’s success

The project architect behind this year’s RIBA Stirling prize winner, the Evelyn Grace Academy, has hit out at the negative reaction to its surprise victory.

The £36.5m school in Brixton defeated favourite the Olympic velodrome to land the award at the beginning of this month, provoking a storm of criticism and claims that the judging process was politically motivated and lacking in transparency.

Zaha Hadid Architects’ project director Lars Teichmann said the school and the practice were proud of the building and attacked the “bitter” reaction of many of the critics, who posted their comments on websites and social networking site Twitter.

There was a level of bitterness that the school didn’t deserve

Lars Teichmann, project director

“To be honest, we were surprised to win it because there seemed to be so much support for the velodrome,” he said. “I was even more surprised by the bitterness afterwards.

“People who had never visited the building made comments on websites and blogs - it was a level of bitterness that the school didn’t deserve.”

Teichmann said it was a “fantastic achievement” to be recognised by a Stirling jury adding that the striking appearance of the academy was not the key to its victory.

“Actually, it is very much tailored to the school’s needs and that is why it won. It has been great to see [pupils and teachers] interacting with the school - how they behave and what they get out of it.”

RIBA president Angela Brady said that the school had been the jury’s unanimous choice, adding that critics resented Zaha Hadid Architects’ achievements including winning the 2010 Stirling prize for the Maxxi museum in Rome.

“There is huge jealousy towards Zaha Hadid. People don’t want her to do well, which is a shame. It is fully deserved that she has won the Stirling prize twice.”