Cities are the challenge...

Monday 27 Feb 2012

Fierce battle for first place in WAN House of the Year AWARDS 2011

The winner of this year’s WAN House of the year award was no easy decision. The competition in the shortlist made it challenging to categorically state one particular project as the outright winner, however during the shortlist discussions a very compelling argument for one particular scheme determined that this year’s winner is The Complex House in Nagoya, Japan by Tomohiro Hata Architect and Associates.

The entries that made it into the final two could not have been more different from one another and this disparity became the focal point in the case for the Complex House. David Levitt immediately recognised the importance of the urban context of this project and stated: “Cities are the challenge; 21st-century urbanisation of big cities is the crucial thing to consider.” The Stone House (the close runner up for the winner of the award) was praised for its beautiful materiality and masterful interventions with the existing historic fabric, however it was felt that its current programmatic function as a holiday home and lack of contextual importance made The Complex House the more engaging of the two as the latter reflects the notion of the ‘home’ in an everyday practice.

Initial comments on The Complex House came from David Levitt as he acknowledged the ‘serious design intent of The Complex House in contrast to The Stone House as a luxurious holiday home’. The restricting aspects of the brief set for the architects has pushed a clever and thoughtful design and Sarah Wigglesworth expressed this as a commendable aspect of the build: “One admires the conceptual basis of the house and the spatiality inside of it. It is lovely.”

The architects masterfully exploit the use of natural lighting and space in such a constrained situation and Tom Kundig noted that it ‘balances the needs of poetic possibilities of shelter and humanity’, a sentiment echoed by David Levitt as he felt the house is trying to build a quality of life for its inhabitants. The interior spaces are light and airy, a quality found commonly in Japanese houses, but it is the playful interweaving of the spaces and the varying proportionality of the rooms inside that really set this house apart from the other schemes in the shortlist.

Sarah Wigglesworth expressed that David Levitt’s argument was compelling and that the ‘notion of an urban model [setting the basis of why this build should win] provides a very valid point’. This importance of the constrained budget and challenging site really impressed all of our judges and Sarah Wigglesworth’s final comment on the build really articulates the unanimous feeling amongst the judges about the aspects of this house that made it our winning entry.

“I do think this is a modern interpretation of the classic ‘house’ with its clever grading of areas and outdoor spaces that are still private but mediate between private and public, something it actually does very well, as it allows little glimpses in to the family realm but it doesn’t allow you to see anything you aren’t supposed to. I think this is ingenious.”

The panel made it clear that The Stone House should be a Highly Commended entry because it is a marvellous piece of architecture that exploits its materiality beautifully with the surrounding landscape, and as a future permanent residence it would provide a wonderful space to live in. The Complex House however was a reaction to modern urban living and represents the House of the Year award in everything it should stand for.

Congratulations to Tomohiro Hata Architect and Associates for its impressive and compelling winning entry, and also to Carl Fredrik Svenstedt Architects for gaining the status of Highly Commended from the judging panel.

Matthew Goodwill
Student Contributor

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