Opened for the first time in November 2010, the WAN Architectural Effectiveness Award aims to find the best in architectural design that has profoundly impacted society, transcending the requirements of the client brief and aesthetic appeal.
In this intensive judging session, WAN's panel of experts were animated and passionate as they studied the wide range of entries, from primary schools to manufacturing plants, which raised polemic issues about the real, long-term value of a building and the social responsibility of the architect. ‘One thing we can confidently say is that this has not been left to subjective judgement', said Raymond Turner as the final decisions were made.
The judges recognised the immense potential of some projects; while more data was needed to support certain claims, the panel appreciated the fact that the architects were evidently taking measures to monitor and improve the effectiveness of their buildings, and were prepared to be self-critical.
In response to HASSELL's SA Water House, one judge praised the fact that ‘they've come up with some problems and they're being honest about that'. Chervon International Trading Company Headquarters by Perkins + Will was highly praised as a positive advance for the commercial sector in China, while Clive Wilkinson's One Shelley Street was recognised as ‘inspiring productivity through diversity and humour rather than uniform efficiency' by Dan Phillips. Discovery Green by PageSoutherlandPage was congratulated for providing a pleasant congregational area for downtown Houston, which as Donald Hyslop noted is ‘as much about the spaces between buildings as the buildings themselves'.
The judges made it clear that communication was vital for this award, as was the demonstration of effectiveness in its many guises. While they were impressed by the range of entries, this diversity also caused some interesting debates as the societal benefits of shopping centres were compared with those of charitable and religious buildings.
Ultimately, though, ‘the projects that stood out were those that found a balance and harmony between these different issues,' says Dan Phillips. ‘The idea that we should judge our built environment by its real effectiveness is not new but, until now, we have had few architectural competitions that attempted to do this in a formal way. We hope this competition will inspire professionals and clients alike to measure performance in a new way - using more rigorous feedback mechanisms but also integrating multiple criteria.'
The overriding feeling at the end of this session was one of positivity - a step in the right direction for architecture around the world. As Raymond Turner succinctly expressed, ‘for a couple of thousand years people haven't been judging architecture for its effectiveness... so it's about time.'Amy Knight
WAN Awards Team
The shortlisted entries are as follows:
Lee Valley Athletics Centre, London, United Kingdom David Morley Architects
One Shelley Street, Sydney, Australia Clive Wilkinson Architects
SA Water House, Adelaide, Australia HASSELL and DEGW
Johnson Controls, Inc., Glendale, Wisconsin, United States Gensler
Union County Juvenile Detention Centre, Linden, New Jersey, United States Ricci Greene Associates
Discovery Green, Houston, Texas, United States PageSoutherlandPage