The WAN Effectiveness Awards, in partnership with global multidisciplinary engineering consultancy Buro Happold, is the first major international competition of its kind, aiming to find the best in architectural design that has profoundly impacted society, transcending the requirements of the client brief and aesthetic appeal. Entrants were asked to demonstrate the ways in which their building has benefited its users, the surrounding community and beyond, in relation to one or more of the following aspects: Social, Technological, Environmental, Economic and Productivity.
While empirical evidence in terms of post-occupancy evaluation surveys proved highly important in the judging session, the panel unanimously agreed that effectiveness of communication is as crucial as that of the building itself. They wanted to see a story unfolding through the entry material, from the initial concept through to completion and beyond.
Environmental factors such as energy consumption were a prominent concern, but the judges were also very attentive to human experience, and were interested in the opinions of the buildings' day-to-day users and members of the local community. Dan Phillips, Group Director for Sustainability at Buro Happold, commented that ‘each project attempted to define effectiveness in different ways, which certainly created debate amongst the judges and led to some serious heart searching as we weighed one against the other... The projects that stood out were those that found a balance and harmony between these different issues.'
The insightful interjections of the five experts that constituted the panel emphasised the fact that the issue of effectiveness stands at the forefront of contemporary architecture. While Dan Phillips and Richard Mazuch, Architect and Director of Design Research and Innovation at Nightingale Associates, stressed the importance of factors such as daylight and ventilation on productivity, Jim Coleman, Director of Regeneris Consulting, highlighted the importance of the shape and size of work spaces in terms of staff performance. Considerations such as these underpinned the judging session, leaving no room for subjectivity. However, the shortlisted work seemed to move the judges in a way that surpassed the clearly demonstrated results of its effectiveness.
While SOM's Cathedral of Christ the Light and Alan Dunlop Architects' Hazelwood School left a deep impression of the jury, who often found themselves torn between architects' intentions and measurable outcomes, Clive Wilkinson Architects' One Shelley Street was praised for its ‘exciting and original permutation of ever-changing workspaces addressing ever changing needs,' and for ‘inspiring productivity through diversity and humour rather than uniform efficiency.'
Ultimately, the panel agreed that two very different buildings were equally entitled to receive this award. The two winners, both located in the United States, are a juvenile detention centre in New Jersey that transcends the usual stereotypes and a major urban park in Houston that both revitalises its neighbourhood and stimulates the local economy.
The Union County Juvenile Detention Centre, designed by Ricci Greene Associates, began with a comprehensive analysis of the Juvenile Justice System conducted by the planning and design team. This resulted in recommendations that included a reduced number of beds, leading to a smaller building footprint and reduced energy consumption. Above this, the facility combines research into sociology, demographics, technology and design to elevate and develop those who must spend time there, which has created a positive atmosphere and produced a measurable change in staff demeanour and residents' behaviour.
Along with many other positive features, the building design allows light into classrooms and living units from both the exterior and the corridors. As a result, the building invigorates its occupants; indeed these positive physiological effects of daylight have been documented. As evidence-based design proponent Richard Mazuch stated during the session, full-spectrum lighting directly affects examination results, and hence is proven to be a positive behaviour-inducing stimulus. The building has been described as 'optimism that belies the building type' and its ambitions and achievements make it a truly exceptional candidate and deserved winner of this award.
Discovery Green in Houston and the buildings within it, designed by Hargreaves Associates (landscape architects and lead consultants) and PageSoutherlandPage (architects and engineers), opened in April 2008. This major urban park has embraced the trend of increasing populations in America's residential areas. By overlaying an extremely high density of programming in creative ways, it allows the park to perform as a living fabric of activities and experiences, as diverse as Houston's population itself. The twelve-acre park has transformed the perception and experience of downtown Houston for its residents and visitors while seeding the revitalisation of the surrounding urban district. As Donald Hyslop, Director of Regeneration and Community Partnerships at Tate Galleries, observed, its design is ‘as much about the spaces between buildings as the buildings themselves'. The park and its three buildings have already proven to be an extremely effective catalyst for redevelopment and has achieved a Gold LEED certification. Demonstrating such measurable success against the economic, social and environmental criteria, Discovery Green was selected by the WAN judges to share this coveted award.
Richard Mazuch said ‘it was wonderful to ultimately see two inseparable winning projects that were the antithesis of each other...' and Dan Phillips emphasised the surprising, paradoxical harmony of these two seemingly disparate projects: ‘a detention centre designed to assume innocence rather than guilt; a park that brought trees and energy efficient buildings to a city dominated by cars and air-conditioning.'
PageSoutherlandPage and Ricci Greene Associates received their awards last night at MIPIM. As the first ever winners of the award, these two vastly different schemes have set the benchmark very high. The WAN Effectiveness Awards will doubtlessly continue to challenge and showcase buildings that excel in their successes beyond those of aesthetics and form.
The leading International Engineering consultancy Buro Happold have not only given their support to these awards but, aligned as they are to delivering only the most effective buildings, they have also brought their proven methodologies and analysis tools to the initiative. Working with many of the world's most renowned architects and clients, Buro Happold are always striving to take engineering excellence to ever higher levels as they challenge convention and find better, more elegant ways to tackle the challenges faced in today's built environment. Their appreciation of a client's social, political and economic issues and of architectural and aesthetic qualities makes Buro Happold the ideal partner for the WAN Effectiveness Awards.
In response to WAN's ground-breaking new award initiative, judge Jim Coleman stated: ‘I think the Effectiveness awards are a fantastic innovation - key measures of the success of new architecture really must include consideration of economic, social and environmental impacts.' Buro Happold representative Dan Phillips added: ‘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... We look forward to seeing this award evolve over time.'