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Signoff: David Taylor

AS YOU probably know, the Stirling Prize is given to 'the architects of the building which has made the greatest contribution to British architecture in the past year'which I'm sure you'll agree is a good thing.

There's an awful lot of good architecture around and an awful lot of bad architecture around.

Unfortunately nobody can agree on which is which.

If you're the Prince of Wales, bad architecture is anything containing concrete and steel but lacking Portland Stone and handmade bricks.On the other hand, if you're an architect, you probably like anything of which the Prince of Wales disapproves.

So it's good to have the Royal Institute of British Architects, in partnership with Construction News's own sister publication, Architects' Journal, to sort the sheep from the goats and tell us categorically what's the best of the best.

This year the finalists include a modern library in Brighton, a swish new headquarters for racing car maker McLaren, a funky office for boy-racing car maker BMW, a north London community centre made of shipping containers, an Irish art gallery and the Scottish Parliament building.

What's the Scottish Parliament building doing in there? I have to admit right away that the only elements of this design I can think of are the windows, with their pointless window seats on the inside and the curvy yellow bars (presumably to stop the MSPs falling out) on the outside. But what do I know? There must be more to the architecture than that.

On the other hand, this building was one of the most mismanaged public building projects of all time, delivered late with more than 18,000 design changes ordered during construction and a final account more than 10 times the original budget. It didn't help that the building's Catalan designer, Enric Miralles, couldn't get on with his client or the rest of the construction team, or indeed, that the poor bloke died halfway through the project.

The Stirling Prize is awarded for something that can't be measured, in defiance of many things that can be measured, namely cost, efficiency and timeliness.Ah well - after all it's just a bit of fun.

WHILE we're on the subject of cost escalations, I notice that the Government has decided to shelve the keenly awaited Stonehenge tunnel project.

It's unlike the public sector to scrap a project just because costs are likely to get out of hand, which is probably why contractors are suspicious of the Government's motives.

I wonder if the same problems beset the builders of the Henge itself? There's no denying it was an ambitious project (and most architectural commentators note with approval that Enric Miralles' Scottish swansong was 'ambitious') so it was probably over budget.

It was built in three phases - but only because they couldn't get it right.

The first phase was made of timber, which has a tendency to warp and is a useless material for an astrological observatory-cum-temple. It is estimated that just 50 years after completion of the first phase, the Henge was losing 30 seconds every day.

So the second phase was built in stone brought 250 miles from South Wales - which was quite something in the days before low-loaders and the A303.

The third phase was the addition of some really big stones dragged to site from Marlborough Downs about 20 miles away.

Experts reckon that, from start to finish, it took a couple of thousand years to build Stonehenge and I bet you anything you like it was way over budget as well as late.

Would the client have cancelled the project if he'd known how it was going to unravel?