14 Mar 2011

Welcome to the first WAN Interior and Design Awards, in recognition of the very best interior and design projects from around the world.

The elite panel of judges, Claire German, Managing Director of Chelsea Harbour Design Centre; Richard Doone, Director of Paramount Architects and Design;Chrystina Schmidt, Creative Director of Skandium; Victoria Redshaw, Managing Director of trend forecasting and interior design company Scarlet Opus; Simon Spiteri, director of designLSM and Helen Berresford, Partner at ID:SR (interior design team at Sheppard Robson), were all impressed with the tremendous range of submissions, agreeing that ‘those that shone out as stars stretched international boundaries and the client brief.'

As well as announcing the shortlist and winner, we catch up with Helen Berresford and Victoria Redshaw to discover which nominees they thought deserved this prestigious award and why.

"We've had some great fun here today with our jurors, and within our short list are some very merit-worthy projects, including Ian Moore Architects' residential project Strelein Warehouse, a very small scale project for a one-off client where the architect has taken a lovely existing building and placed the car as centre stage. Internally the environment is beautiful, almost austere. However, we felt that it would have been nice to have had maybe a little more of the texture of the existing environment creeping through the very black and white environment."

Many of the other projects were on a more commercial scale, a ‘city within a city' - and certainly HASSELL's ANZ Centre located in Melbourne's Docklands was an excellent example, with 6,500 people calling the environment ‘home' - yet this landmark building still achieved a senseof intimacy as well as grandeur. "We particularly liked the grand atrium which had a public level and ground floor which really draws people into the space. When you look over the open atrium you can see pockets of beautiful, intimate desking furniture that glows within the overall cathedral space."

On another level, the judges admired HASSELL's second submission, DTAC House in Thailand, a project where the architect instilled a sense of fun into the office environment, including a racing track and space to practise Thai Chi. Victoria Redshaw thought DTAC House broke all the established conventions concerning the workplace, and in doing so HASSELL have created ‘a stimulating space to learn, play and personalise your time at work to maximise productivity, commitment and contentment. Office designers take note... this is how it's done!'

Within the range of submissions were some intimate projects including a very beautiful ‘Dancing line' chair by Skidmore, Owings & Merrill LLP, which created a stunning graphic as well as anelegant piece of furniture. Several of the judges would have liked to have tried the chair to see just how comfortable it was, prompting Helen to comment that this was ‘an enticing response...through the 2D images you wanted to try the 3D object.' The judges commented that it would be interesting to see more products; ‘there are some lovely products out there, and it would be good to see more submissions in the products category.'

One of Helen's personal favourites was Emma's Children's Hospital in Amsterdam. This one certainly caused a degree of conflict and discussion amongst the judges. "Having recently had a son in hospital I very much took my designer glasses off, very cognisant of what it is that helps a small child walk into a hospital environment and feel more normal about the situation. I felt that Opera Amsterdam's solution really did push the boundaries of creating a space that would actually help one feel a bit more joyful. Victoria agreed, adding ‘Emma's Children's Hospital offers a new direction and appreciation of the requirements of young patients and their families. Opera Amsterdam have understood perfectly how interior design can and should play a beneficial and integral role in the comfort and happiness of children during hospital visits.'

Out of all these beautiful and varied international projects the unanimous favourite was The Waterhouse Hotel in Shanghai. The jurors debated the scale of Shanghai and commercial developments in terms of high rise and the brave new world of the Chinese economy. Here was a little piece of the old Shanghai ring-fenced in the diplomatic quarter that succeeded in keeping the texture of China's history alive within a stunning boutique hotel. Richard Doone was fortunate enough to have stayed in the hotel and he confirmed that it was an inspirational environment, especially the main reception area which achieved a degree of grandeur stripped back bare, with some of the original textures of the old building.

The judges kept coming back to the ‘master plan' of Shanghai being complemented by the intimacies of a three-storey building with skyscrapers in the distance. Essentially this was an interior project, but it also managed to retain both the structure of the existing building, a surprisingly sustainable approach on a valuable plot of land. "The designers inserted some beautiful pieces of intervention which were very contemporary on an international scale. We were drawn to many of the pieces of furniture which were so thoughtfully selected and tactile, including a beautiful chandelier sculpture within the main reception area; a small signature of elegance within this overall textured environment creating a lovely soft feminine touch."

The panel also admired the external courtyard with its white walls with holes pierced in the elevation, and reclaimed timbered shutters all of a slightly different shape and configuration, which, along with a warm timber cladding, gave a very human sense of scale. Another image of the hotel that really sold this project to the judges was a bedroom shot where you had some of the existing texture of the brick wall juxtaposed with a beautiful viewof Shanghai through a simply framed window. This was complemented with very contemporary pieces of furniture that, rather than being showstoppers in themselves, created an inviting place to sit with a real sense of intimacy.

Redshaw went on to say, ‘The Waterhouse Hotel is such a worthy winner, and the entry we were all so excited about, delighted by and unanimous on! The old building has been repurposed with great integrity and respect and a beautiful dialogue has been formed between old and new Shanghai. Neri&Hu's bravery and restraint is to be applauded.'


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