Reality check

Maria Smith dons her best nylon dress for a night of prizes

Only one week left to enter the Real Architecture Awards. Impress clients and win more work by furnishing your office bathroom with a faux-gold loo brush presented to winners of the most honest awards in architecture. And if the glory isn’t enough, think of the defrosted dinner in a hideous hotel where you will enjoy the exploits of a washed up old comedian who fails to compensate for the atmosphere of hostility engendered by competition between fragile egos. 

This year’s categories are:

Youthful Architect of the Year: Established at the dawn of time, this recognises the best projects by architects under the age of 70. Those eligible should run an established practice that has been delivering successful projects for decades. Judges will give special priority to projects that will inspire young people, rather than being delivered by them. Youthful Architect of the Year is sponsored by the Ordinary Architects Pension and the prize is two weeks CAD tuition at a mediocre Architectural Technology College.

Undercut Award: Presented each year to the practice that consistently delivers services with implausibly low fees, this prize was re-established in 2008 to encourage a race to the bottom. To demonstrate eligibility, practices should show fee proposals, time sheets, and invoices for at least three projects that defy economic sense. Judges will be looking for creative solutions to lowering outgoings including consistent 70 hour weeks by employees, unpaid internships, and a dismal lack of quality control resulting from insufficient resourcing. The award is sponsored by Hipster Hairdressers and the prize is super cool undercut hairdos for up to 500 employees, 7% of which must be UK tax payers.

Man Architect of the Year: This is a new award set up this year to honour great male architects. The eligibility criteria involves demonstrating extreme manliness. The judges will not be interested in the architect’s projects, but in his manly prowess demonstrated at meetings, in emails, and generally about town. Man Architect of the Year is sponsored by Deceptively Benign Adventure Holidays and the prize is a long weekend of uninsured thrill seeking with 20 people the recipient wants to impress.

Judges will give special attention to the expensive use of humble materials that create a sense of civic poverty and shame

Less is More Medal: This accolade is for projects that have achieved as little as possible with vast resources. The prize was established in 1994 to recognise expensive projects that look cheap. Eligible projects will have an inordinately high per square meter rate that is almost imperceptible to visitors. Judges will give special attention to the expensive use of humble materials that create a sense of civic poverty and shame. The Less is More Medal is sponsored by the unofficial Brewster’s Millions Fan Club who recreationally misunderstand the value of money. Winners receive a digitally remastered DVD of the 1921 film one year after the prize is awarded.

Merging Architecture Awards: Presented to bought or sold companies, this prize rewards laudable skill and cunning in buying and/or selling architecture practices. Eligible firms will either have bought another to great financial reward, or have sold their own practice to great financial reward. Judges will be looking for continuity of cunning coupled with discontinuity of design integrity. This award is sponsored by Massive Built Environment Conglomerate PLC and the prize is being bought out by them.

The Tick Box Bursary: This scholarship is for architects that demonstrate a deep, pedantic understanding of design standards and guidelines. Submissions must include extensive certifications issued by approved inspectors witnessed by specialist experts overseen by qualified gurus. Judges will reward projects that place guidelines above common sense at every turn with special consideration given to token sustainability and perfunctory community consultation. The bursary is sponsored by adult education charity Reinvent the Training Wheel and the scholarship affords unlimited CPDs for a year.

Architectural Design Prize for Non-Architects: This not particularly sought after award is given for the best project designed by a non-architect. Anyone who has completed a building is eligible. Judges will reward work that best demonstrates the futility of protection of title. This prize is sponsored by MailEverybody.com and the prize is an email to every registered architect in the country spelling out every detail of the winner’s professional and personal life.

Award Award: Most prestigious of all, this award is for the best Architectural Award in the UK. In response to the popularity of this award, this year sees the introduction of the sub-award award categories: Best Corruption of Value in Architecture, Best Prejudice-Based Award, and Best Thinly Veiled Profiteering. Eligible entrants will be an architectural award. The award is judged very, very quickly over a liquid lunch using large matrices with maximum opportunity for arithmetical error. It is not sponsored and will be presented by the winner to the winner. 


Maria Smith is a director at Studio Weave