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Tuesday 23 Oct 2012

Wide diversity in this year's WAN AWARDS Urban Regeneration Shortlist

Earlier this month four of our esteemed jurors gathered to deliberate over the WAN Urban Regeneration Award Completed entries, and the question at the forefront of everyone’s mind was what makes a good urban regeneration scheme. As described by Martyn Evans, Creative Director of Cathedral Group and member of the Completed Projects jury panel, this year we were looking for projects where ‘the regeneration was more than making what was unattractive and ugly a good place to be, but how that then inspires how people live and interact with the city’.

From this the 'Completed' panel had the task of narrowing down the longlist to six. A list of submissions from all around the globe each with their own spin on urban regeneration, whether it was transformation of a waterfront and bringing back wasteland to the people, or redeveloping urban squares creating a socio-economic change within the heart of a large city.

To Jonathan Kendall, Head of Urban Design at Fletcher Priest Architects, ‘regeneration is when the state or developer doesn’t act normally’. As well as looking at the overall design and innovation within the project it was apparent that each successful project that made it into the coveted shortlist came from clients, or sometimes the state, who did not act effectively.

Perhaps one of the most challenging was the Guthrie Green Park, Tulsa by SWA Group, where the client invested millions into the project, ultimately championing a green scheme. “What’s really interesting are the geothermal piles; how it actually supplies a non-profit organisation. You think about public spaces and how difficult it is in the UK to provide them and underneath (that park) is a mechanism to provide energy,” mused Kent Jackson, Design Director of Skidmore, Owings & Merrill.

Other shortlisted schemes favoured projects which were economic and social drivers; Burns & Nice ‘transformed’ Leicester Square and Donald Insall’s ‘spectacular’ Quadrant 3, strove to redefine one of London’s biggest tourist destinations despite their ‘grim’ appearances. Whilst these projects arguably would always succeed, Jonathan Kendall felt they were ‘good pieces of architecture with an urban implication’ with Morten Schmidt of schmidt hammer lassen architects agreeing that they were an example of the ‘state doing something to really change the behaviour of the people.’

However, it was not just projects with long term economic goals which caught the jurors’ attention. ‘I want to know that these clever things that do a really specific job can transform the economy of the area of the city, change it; make people want to live there,’ considered Evans of Turenscape’s Houtan Park, Shanghai. The scheme was commended for its excellent green credentials; using a constructed wetland to cleanse and purify the Huangpu River. It was the architect’s focus and drive to create something not purely for leisure but to affect long term change that made it an excellent regeneration scheme.

Similar attributes were also found in Burgos & Gurrido’s M30 (Manzanares Lineal Park) and Taylor Cullity Lethlean with Wraight + Associates’ North Wharf Promenade, Jellicoe Street and Silo Park schemes which in Schmidt’s mind ‘really regenerated pedestrian activity to something which is as vibrant as the activity before’, the sign of truly successful urban regeneration projects.

In the next-door room, Alan Thompson, Head of Design Review for CABE, Biljana Savic, Urban Programme Manager at The Prince’s Foundation for Building Community and Richard Brown, Director at Keith Williams Architects came together to discuss twenty-five longlisted schemes for the Urban Regeneration Unbuilt category.

Crucial to our panel was finding a good cross-section of projects for the final shortlist of six. The jury’s shortlist demonstrates a range of geographical locations and approaches to urban regeneration, with a collection of ambitious schemes that make a vital impact at various scales.

The first to make it to the shortlist was BHI Architects’ Changxing Green Urban Community, an impressive agricultural project in China which maps out a 60 sq km eco-city which Thompson termed ‘truly unique and visionary’, a statement echoed by the rest of the jury.

At the opposite end of the scale was the University of Arkansas Community Design + Marlon Blackwell Architect’s Creative Corridor, A Main Street Revitalisation for Little Rock in Arkansas which looks to regenerate a four-block section of the 193,000-strong city. The approach taken by this team is one that the jury panel saw a number of times during the session - taking a portion of a city and rejuvenating it through the creative industries. This particular example stood out for its achievability and human scale, Brown musing that it is ‘a hugely do-able and practical project which would make a huge difference’ to the people of Arkansas.

It wasn’t only scale that varied over the six shortlisted schemes but approach. While BHI Architect’s project looks at a slice of land and suggests a transformation through agriculture and the Arkansas project looks to the creative industries to regenerate a city, Gustafson Porter LLP’s Valencia Parque Central was selected for its integration of leisure, environmental strategies, sports and ‘urban celebrations’. A truly multifunctional space, the 21st-century park project was applauded for its finer details as well as wider masterplan with Thompson concluding: “I particularly like the reference to usability at night with the lighting in order to keep it safe.”

Not quite making the final shortlist but deemed deserving of a Special Mention is Studio Egret West’s The Old Vinyl Factory in Hayes, UK. Whilst the jury were impressed at Studio Egret West’s handling of the brief and intention to keep a large proportion of the existing buildings intact, it was felt that the site was too cut off from its surrounding neighbourhood and isolated from the community. As such, it has been awarded a Special Mention.

All projects marked 'ECO' have been longlisted for the ECOWAN Award.

By Jade Pollard and Sian Disson

Urban Regeneration - Completed

Guthrie Green Urban Park, Tulsa, United States - SWA Group (ECO)

Martyn Evans:
- The programming of it is as high-profile in the submission as in the geothermal design making it come alive
Morten Schmidt:
- We all know these American Centres, an attempt to do something different
Kent Jackson:
- What’s really interesting as well is that geothermal - how it actually supplies a non-profit organisation - you think about the public spaces and how difficult it is in the UK to provide it, and underneath all of this is a mechanism to provide for non-profit organisation

M30 (Manzanares Lineal Park), Madrid, Spain - Burgos & Garrido Arquitectos

Martyn Evans:
- Regeneration of a place is more than making what was unattractive and ugly a good place to be, but how that then inspires how people live and interact with the city
Kent Jackson:
- Stitching together the neighbourhood 

Houtan Park, Shanghai, China - Turenscape (ECO)

Martyn Evans:
- Nice, clever
- It’s not just a pretty park; I think these clever things that do a really special job also transform the economy of the area of the city, change it. It makes people want to live here
Jonathan Kendall:
- A worthy project

Leicester Square Redesign, London, United Kingdom - Burns + Nice

Martyn Evans:
- It is a real transformation
Morten Schmidt:
- It’s not only old and young people gathering there, it’s groups and people who can sit - It is the glue that’s trying to stitch this place together; modest as a bench but it’s the bench that opens it up

Quadrant 3, London, United Kingdom - Donald Insall Associates

Martyn Evans:
- Spectacular - Thumping great building in a not very pretty place…it was grim around there and now it’s not

North Wharf Promenade, Jellicoe Street and Silo Park, Auckland, New Zealand - Taylor Cullity Lethlean with Wraight + Associates

Kent Jackson:
- Keeping with the industrial language
Morten Schmidt:
- Seamless connection and use of old and retaining structure - What is interesting in this one, I presume there are some old industrial buildings that they will use so it is more than just leisure; they are workspaces which I find interesting when they integrate these things. Some of these park projects it’s just leisure, places where you really regenerate the activity - something which is as vibrant as the activity before was

Special Mention

Westminster Pier Park, New Westminster, Canada - PWL Partnership Landscape Architects (ECO)

Martyn Evans:
- It’s come a hell of a long way
Kent Jackson:
- in terms of sustainability it is excellent, extremely commendable

Urban Regeneration - Unbuilt

Changxing Green Urban Community, Changxing, China - BHI Architects (ECO)

Richard Brown:
- A reinvention of agricultural architecture
Alan Thompson:
- Is this proposed as a bottom up solution to urban design?
- This project is truly unique and visionary, but one wonders if it is a bit ‘too dreamy’ and therefore unlikely to be realised
Biljana Savic:
- Great depth of vision in China, where anything is possible. But is it urban regeneration, or urban design?

Atlantic City Tourism District Master Plan, Atlantic City, United States - The Jerde Partnership

Alan Thompson:
- A very sensitive solution to a city that desperately needs regeneration. Combines the essence of Atlantic city with a much more user friendly option

The H+ Project, Helsingborg, Sweden - Erik Giudice Architects

Biljana Savic:
- A very innovative solution to urban regeneration
- Master planning in essence. The architecture is a little far-fetched, and probably undeliverable, but the innovation and inclusiveness is very encouraging
Richard Brown:
- Creating a social atmosphere, encouraging residents integration

Newtown Creek Concept Master Plan, New York, United States - Perkins+Will (ECO)

Alan Thompson:
- A project that envisages ‘healing the edges of the city’. A definite contender for the ECOWAN award, particularly because of its vision
Biljana Savic:
- This entry is only held back by the lack of detail in the planning
Richard Brown:
- This project would unite the two districts of Brooklyn and Queens, and would be regeneration in a very positive sense

The Creative Corridor A Main Street Revitalization for Little Rock, Arkansas, Little Rock, United States - University of Arkansas Community Design + Marlon Blackwell Architect

Alan Thompson:
- A very positive project which would change the everyday existence of people’s lives in the area
Richard Brown:
- A hugely do-able and practical project which would make a huge difference

Valencia Parque Central, Valencia, Spain - Gustafson Porter LLP

Alan Thompson:
- A really delightful project, that whilst may be better suited to a landscaping competition would have a huge impact on the city. I particularly like the reference to usability at night, with the lighting, in order to keep it safe
Richard Brown:
- This project would have a hugely beneficial impact of the lives of its users

Special Mention

The Old Vinyl Factory, Hayes, United Kingdom - Studio Egret West

- A better solution than project number four (also Studio Egret West) as it seems to integrate existing buildings, and inclusive of the industrial history of the site

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