This week, our 2011 jury panels met over two unseasonably warm April days in London to debate a medley of 55 contenders for the WAN AWARDS Education Sector. This year’s entries spanned an incredible range of architectural styles, and as always reached to every corner of the globe. A bamboo school from the Philippines went head to head with a sculptural Creative Media Centre in Hong Kong, while a primary school in Melbourne reminiscent of Jean Nouvel’s 2010 Serpentine Pavilion was judged against a waterside adult education centre in Denmark boasting layers of angular viewing terraces.
This year’s shortlists stand testament to WAN’s campaign for a variety of stylistic expressions, as our trusted jury panels cherry-picked a selection of designs no two of which are remotely alike. Whilst each is highly individual, many displayed a similarly expert handling of ‘exceptional high quality materials’, a ‘respectful’ approach to the building’s siting, an ‘imaginative, great use of space’ and intuitive placement of ‘flexible and interactive’ internal layouts.
Education has always been a favoured sector for our practised judges, as the architectural design must not only act as a practical teaching environment but needs to inspire and excite young minds on a day-to-day basis. It was no surprise therefore that the Umeå Architecture Academy in Sweden was added to the shortlist without question; a simple but effective complex built by a ‘cracking practice’ to encourage aspiring designers to think outside the box. Karim Benkirane, Principal and Leader in the Education Sector at Woods Bagot and WAN ‘Completed’ juror explained: “The use of materials is nothing too expensive. It’s nice and clean, the detailing is good, and the geometry is lovely.”
At the opposite end of the educational scale, the Michael Faraday School in London, UK was singled out for its ‘seductive’ design, with Ty Goddard, Director of the British Council for School Environments impressed by the ‘Head Teacher vision’. Clarifying the importance of the user’s experience he described this influence as ‘a completely different vision about knowing education, what it’s about – intimacy and experience for the children that don’t normally have that within the community. It’s different’.
The Nara Bunka High School in Japan also hit a high note with the judges, sparking a particular chord with Mairi Johnson, Strategic Director of Design at Partnerships for Schools, who exclaimed: “Everything I said about wanting a building relating to its outside area, you’ve got it here.” This was quickly supported by Aedas’ Sarah Williams who agreed: “You can imagine it being a lovely place to be in; the relationship with the garden and the outside is fantastic, but also so important. Quite difficult to achieve in an educational environment.”
Umeå Architecture Academy, Umeå, Sweden - Henning Larsen Architects
Kroon Hall - Yale University, New Haven, United States - Hopkins Architects
Fitzroy High School, Melbourne, Australia - McBride Charles Ryan
University of Oregon John E. Jaqua Academic Center for Student Athletes, Eugene, United States - ZGF Architects LLP
RMIT Melbourne Campus Building 88 (Levels 5+6), Melbourne, Australia - Spowers
Michael Faraday Community School, London, United Kingdom - Alsop Sparch
Nara Bunka High School, Nara, Japan - Showa Sekkei,Inc.
VUC in Southern Jutland, Haderslev, Denmark - AART Architects A/S
The Cairns Institute, Cairns, Australia - BVN Architecture
Tidemill Primary School, London, United Kingdom - Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects
UCN IMAGO, Aalborg, Denmark - GPP Architects
The Vibeeng School, Haslev, Denmark - Arkitema Architects