The latter part of the World Architecture Day morning session was devoted to the Civic Buildings sector, one of the most popular of our ongoing WAN AWARDS scheme. This session was hosted by Malcolm Reading, founder of Malcolm Reading Consultants who stirred up debate between Roisin Heneghan from Heneghan Peng, Chris Bannister of Hopkins Architects and Paul Appleton from Allies and Morrison Architects.
Roisin Heneghan kicked things off with an overview of two key schemes by Heneghan Peng on totally opposing scales: The Grand Egyptian Museum in Cairo and The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre in Northern Ireland. In both projects it was clear to see the subtle integration of the building into the landscape, with the brief for the Grand Egyptian Museum project stipulating the necessity for additional open-air spaces, as Heneghan admits ‘Cairo has very little public space so garden space on the west of the city was very important’.
Similarly, The Giant’s Causeway Visitor Centre is a celebration of the raw, rugged coastal range that has long been a busy tourist attraction. Over the years the area has become a scenic attraction but Roisin admits that visitors have often been disappointed by the lack of amenities onsite, hence the need for the Visitor Centre.
Using these two case studies as a base, Reading led a discussion on the nature of a civic building and the challenges facing the architecture profession in this popular sector. One issue that was dissected at length was the difference between clients in the civic sector compared to more experienced developers in areas such as commercial and healthcare. Appleton noted that ‘clients struggle with the continuity of civilisation, not with what they’re building at that point’.
This statement spawned a debate about what makes a civic building, the panellists contemplating issues of scale, clientele and place in the community. Again Appleton was leading the way with such statements as ‘the points that are made in the brief are as important as those that are not’ and ‘civic projects as small as a bus stop can have an iconography; civic is almost inherent’, before wrapping up with the resonating comment, ‘A great civic building has a role in the city which transcends the things that are put within it’.
After this lengthy debate, Bannister took to the microphone to brief the packed audience on Hopkins’ much-celebrated Velodrome for the London 2012 Olympic Games, detailing the firm’s source of inspiration: the value engineering and structural efficiency of the push-bike. Unbeknown to him, the elegantly swooping structure was the winner of this year’s WAN AWARDS Civic Sector completed category so he was soon joined by WAN’s Editor in Chief, Michael Hammond who presented Bannister with a certificate marking this prestigious award win.
Reports from World Architecture Day