'An opportunity for discovery'

Monday 16 Apr 2012

Sensitive handling of heritage buildings and pioneering architecture win WAN AWARDS

World Architecture News is proud to announce that the winners of the 2012 WAN AWARDS Education Sector are Stanton Williams’ New University of the Arts, Central Saint Martins in London, UK and Perkins + Will’s Kuwait Teaching School in Shidadiyah, Kuwait.

Of the shortlisted schemes chosen by our panel for the ‘Completed’ category it was clear that there were a couple of projects which made more of an impact than others. All the projects ‘have a story which connects to learning’ (Gitte Andersen, SIGNAL) and offered impressive architectural prowess, but the question on our jury’s lips was ‘Does it reflect what is going on inside the building?’ As Maria Nesdale from Gensler concluded, ‘it’s got to do both’.

The first to be mentioned was the biggest project out of the shortlist, New University of the Arts, Central Saint Martins project by Stanton Williams, and was a favourite to win throughout the discussion. Further on it was evident that the panel also favoured 'The Hub' at Coventry University by HawkinsBrown alongside the Stanton Williams project. In addition to this there was also a lot of discussion about the Hinman Research Building by Lord, Aeck & Sargent in collaboration with Office dA, with the scheme described as ‘perfect for its function’ by Darius Umrigar from Devereux Architects. However the panel also agreed that the scheme didn't necessarily push boundaries despite its arguably simple brief: architects designing for architecture students.

Not all of the panel were immediately on board for the Central Saint Martins project to win, as SIGNAL's Gitte Andersen argued: "When it comes to a learning environment it doesn't push any boundaries." Simultaneously it was brought up by Darius Umrigar that ‘the spaces allow you to do what the school requires without being too forceful’ and Aedas' Sarah Williams posed that it is a ‘very complicated building, dealing with heritage and existing buildings with insertions and a new building, done beautifully...though it may not push the boundaries of learning that far’.

During a comparison of the contenders for the title, the discussion turned to the future and the longevity of each project where the panel were not convinced with 'The Hub' and Darius Umrigar concluded that the Central Saint Martins scheme would 'last the test of time without question'.

It was the project’s well-rounded ability to address the current context of the site and culture, and demonstrate innovative and commendable solutions for the future of architecture, which allowed Kuwait Teaching School by Perkins+Will to stand out from an array of visionary proposals in the ‘Unbuilt’ category. After looking over various visual articulations of the scheme’s spatial qualities, juror Richard Keating of ORMS Architectural Design praised the proposal’s ability to ‘blur the boundaries of inside and outside space’. This was mirrored by the comments contributed by remote judge Aaron B. Schwartz of Perkins Eastman who recognised the potential ‘opportunity for discovery’ offered by the scheme.

David Cole of Building Trust International spoke in approval of the scheme’s pioneering nature: “This is potentially something which defines its own architecture through its own vernacular style but brings it into the 21st century.” He continued in optimal admiration of the overall message sent out by the proposal: “If this competition is a tool for getting other architects to think about some of the issues that these bring up, then this should be promoted!” Throughout the deliberation of the judging session, the ethos of the scheme was repeatedly addressed and highly appreciated. Even in a state of indecision fellow juror Dominique Oliver agreed: “It’s suggesting a way of re-thinking architecture as part of the world… which is really refreshing.”

Having earned the panel’s attention and respect, the scheme clearly caught our experts’ imagination as they discussed the experience of moving though the spaces both external and internal. Dominique Oliver made her curiosities for the projected spaces clear and concluded that ‘this would be an amazing place to visit’. Our panel recognised the vast potential of the scheme both aesthetically and ethically and agreed that this project deserved a WAN Award.

Congratulations to Stanton Williams and Perkins + Will.

Jessica Tang and Lauren Ferrell
Architecture Students at University of Brighton

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