The judges faced a daunting task to extract a short list of six projects from the impressive array of entries from both leading practices and smaller, relatively unknown firms alike. The Urban Design “umbrella” was itself wide ranging, including Transport, Landscaping, Infrastructure, Masterplanning and Urban Design. Alastair Lansley, having recently completed the vast St Pancras complex was unsurprisingly passionate about the railway schemes and particularly liked the dramatic interiors of TFP Farrell’s Beijing South Station. On the other hand, Foster and Partner’s Grant Brooker, having Hong Kong’s Chek Lap Kok Airport under his belt was clearly an airport man, although he had to keep quiet when his firm’s Beijing Airport was discussed.
New York’s Highline created a ripple of interest and the jurors were impressed to see the new urban parkway being used by the big apple’s residents. Many of the schemes presented were devoid of people. Northala Fields by FORM Associates Ltd ticked all the boxes with heads nodding around the table and Arup’s Dervilla Mitchell who had recently seen the recycled megaliths from a motorway, “marvelled at their shape and scale,” all agreed that a new landmark had been created for travellers and residents alike. The positives from negatives attributes of this scheme won the hearts and minds of the panel and the room was united. Castleford Riverside Masterplan, by McDowell + Benedetti was instantly admired, its natural moulding into the landscape and detailing combining to create a “fully resolved” structure.
Seattle Art Museum Olympic Sculpture Park, by Weiss/Manfredi on the other hand was a slow burner. The panel took a while to absorb the complexities of the site and the challenges that had been overcome to achieve a brilliant example of 21st century Urban Design.
Ultimately however the sheer scale and boldness of Foster’s Beijing International Airport won over the diehard railwayman and Alastair Lansley championed the scheme to become overall winner in the Urban Design sector. He was joined in his endeavour by remote jury member Almudena Bustos in Madrid who said the scheme, “resolved the complexities of the program and the big scale with a clear concept of the space and as the gate of the Chinese capital the building is very well integrated in the context evoking with the form, space and materials of the Chinese tradition. Evocative and symbolic, it combines tradition and vanguard. ”
The entries for the unbuilt category included many gems from both the “under construction” and “missed opportunity” fields. The judging session was colourful with Piers Gough’s unrestrained critique being balanced by Gensler’s Peter Sheard and Russ Hamilton of Farrells' more reserved observations.
A few projects immediately bubbled up to the short list like SOM’s Alexandria masterplan which commanded almost a reverence in some panel members for its biblical ambitions and the way in which the lost city had been reclaimed. Stephen Pimbley, principle at Sparch, Beijing described it as, “befitting the romance of, and providing a focal point for the re-imagining of this extraordinary city.”
New Water in the Hague was also in this category, facing up to the Global Warming challenge with its seemingly effortless solution.
Others invoked heated debate including the New Urban Centre in Riga by Fletcher Priest Architects which took the panel a while to get under the skin of the plan and narrowly missed the boat. Similarly, SOM’s Chicago river walk created a lively discussion and was universally admired for its intentions but was thought to have underachieved its potential in the execution. Piers summed up the mood, “Too safe, no steel, no glass.”
The new PuXi district in Shanghai generated much discussion with its distinctive ribbon development threading through the historic city considered both brave and risky.
Riegler Riewe’s unsuccessful design for Zagreb Airport seemed to be answering a different brief to the successful scheme by Tower 151 Architects but won over the panel with its blocky form and more ordered approach to the wider environs of the airport. “Laudable approach, simple and understated. ”
Wandering Ecologies, Toronto by Weiss/Manfredi got the thumbs up for its ambitious regeneration vision, creating a sense of place from a former industrial quarter, fully accessible from the existing centre.
West Loop Park by Perkins and Will, effortlessly cruised into the shortlist despite reservations about the practicality of the huge wind scoop. Piers summed the scheme up with one of his now classic one liners. “Will power and woof bang! ”
However in the end it was FX FOWLE’s Nordhavnen City Regenerative, Copenhagen that reached the top with its confident and ambitious approach to a complex regeneration brief. The dramatic images simply wowed the room. The day was won.