There is clearly no shortage of commissions, despite the recession. From an unprecedented number of entries – seventeen - we have shortlisted two projects, listed here in alphabetical order.
The first, Newham, on the Fowey estuary in Cornwall, is an impressive essay in restrained classicism. Though relatively small, the house is coolly monumental. There is no redundant frippery or ostentation here: the columns, where they appear, are monolithic, almost primitive, in a way wholly appropriate to the material and context. Throughout there is a sense of thoughtfulness and serious attention to detail, evident in the rough, hand-punched granite gate piers and lintels, the depth of the reveals and the subtle entasis of the columns in the hall. Deeply tactile and textured, Newham rises from the landscape almost literally, being built very largely from Cornish materials: the granite is from the De Lank quarry, fifteen miles away, roofing slate is from the Trevillick quarry, rubblestone walling from the North Cornish coast and slate paving from Delabole, twenty miles away. Unsurprisingly, the house sits entirely comfortably on its site.
Our second scheme is the Obelisk at Tusmore Park in Oxfordshire. This is celebratory architecture, commemorating the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee. Ninety feet high, in limestone on an ashlar plinth, the obelisk stands one mile from house, to which we awarded this prize in 2004, and stands in the grand tradition of monumental eyecatchers. This is a compelling expression of confidence by a client in the mould of eighteenth century patrons: a creator of wonders in a pedestrian climate where too few wonders exist. The obelisk is carefully designed and scaled to be seen from a distance but also bears the closest scrutiny. The detailing is exquisite, not least in the gilded cap, the Corinthian pedestal and the delicately-carved life-size eagles, holding garlands in their talons, that call to mind those on Trajan’s column in Rome.
The winner will be announced on the evening of 31 October 2012.