Three winners in 2012 Commercial Sector

Monday 17 Dec 2012

Quality of submissions so high for WAN AWARDS 2012 Commercial Sector, jury panel is forced to select three winners

WAN AWARDS Commercial Sector - Completed Schemes

The shortlist for the 2012 WAN AWARDS Commercial Sector Completed category showcased a collection of projects so wide and divers on the architectural spectrum that debate over a single winner prevailed throughout the jury session. As a result, two projects were picked out, both struggling to overcome the merits of one another. Both magnificent and eye-catching in their own ways, these schemes exceeded four other shortlisted projects, causing the judges to come to a conclusion that one specific scheme could not be chosen. As a result, this year’s joint winners are; Cannon Place, London, United Kingdom by Foggo Associates, and Statoil Oslo Offices, Oslo, Norway by a-lab.

A key aspect that drove the two projects against each other were the ways in which the schemes best fulfilled the criteria set by the WAN AWARDS and as Chapman Taylor's Adrian Griffiths said during the shortlisting process, having a legibility and flexibility of spaces that can be pleasantly experienced by the user.

First to be dissected by our jurors was Cannon Place. Looking at the presentation, Adrian Griffiths simply exclaimed that it is a ‘very commercial building’ with ‘inherently flexible spaces that can be easily subdivided’. Pollard Thomas Edwards architects' Teresa Borsuk on the other hand, expressed her passion for the simplicity of the building declaring how she ‘loves the fact it’s a box’ which is also ‘structurally interesting’.

Following this came the Statoil Oslo office scheme. Adrian Griffiths again kicked off the conversation saying it was exceptionally ‘interesting for its limited space and use of cantilevers’. Griffiths further complimented its flexibility and multi-functionality by remarking ‘it’s pretty efficient; it could even turn into residential’. The jurors agree that ‘it is iconic, branded’, ‘structurally interesting’ and at the same time successfully, ‘ticks the boxes, meeting the direct challenges to the brief’.

Even though these two projects have several similarities, ‘context’ was the dividing factor and the reason our jurors struggled to choose one project over the other. Cannon Place, set in the urban and commercial centre of London, is where business strives within a densely packed quarter. On the other hand, Statoil Oslo Office is set on the top of a mound in suburban Oslo, surrounded by fairly low-levelled structures. As Griffiths emphasises, ‘one could give two of these sites the same amount of architects, but for the Oslo site, so many possible designs can be created, whereas for the Cannon Place, a similar series of designs would probably be seen'.

Something worth noting was the fact that even with the large mound of space the Statoil Oslo Office seemed to have ‘had to have been built within the parameters of its former parking lot’. In effect, the jurors believe that within the site they were given, both parties needed to and successfully managed to ‘maximise space and efficiency’, whether it was by the ‘lovely use of box structures’ or the skilful use of cantilevers.

Although either counter parts claim their win over this year’s WAN AWARDS Commercial Sector for completed projects title, jurors themselves agreed that when the two projects are looked at, ‘you know what they do’, they ‘do their job’, and they would be ‘great architecture to work in’. Placing themselves in such a diverse context and yet able to compete on such a high level, we can only see the ever diversifying innovation in commercial typology.

Alex Mizui

WAN AWARDS Commercial Sector - Future Schemes

WAN’s 2012 Commercial (Future Schemes) category saw the judges torn between two very strong schemes: Mangera Yvers Architects submission for a Tesco store/community centre in Nottingham and HKS’ Future: GSA project. In the end, it was the adaptive re-use of a former GSA building which captured the judges attention, making HKS Inc the winners of this years’ award.

Mangera Yvers Architects’ Tesco proposal fought a good fight, securing itself a Highly Commended title from the judges. This is a scheme which looks to change the commercial typology, a scheme which made Tescos, ‘something a bit more than an inhumane box’ as put by Linzi Cassels, Principal of Pringle Brandon Perkins + Will. To Duncan Swinhoe, Managing Director of Gensler, the scheme displayed ‘sensitive drawing from the narrative of the surrounding’ by incorporating a lace pattern into the façade. The scheme would draw from the culture and local history of the site, paying respect to the culture and history that once existed there. Not only did the project look to bring back the consumer to the shops but looked to ‘change the experience of the user’ and give back to the community.

However, it was Future: GSA which won the coveted award with its ‘sophisticated’ take on adaptive re-use. By re-using and modernising a former office block Future: GSA was set apart from the rest of the commercial category with strong eco credentials, one example being the ETFE panelised cover embedded with building integrated photovoltaics set within the landscape. By removing the central core and lifting the body of the building up to create a pedestrian thoroughfare the scheme is ‘pushing at the boundaries’ confirmed juror Linzi Cassels. The judges all agreed that the ‘progressive’ scheme put forward by HKS Inc was ‘the direction we should be moving in’.

The scheme aims to ‘heal’ the unhealthy existing building and bring it back into the community, making it a ‘sustainable and thriving workplace’. To do so, the design removes the core of the building to bring daylight into the centre of a dense floorplan, also lifting the weight of the floorslabs to reduce the cooling loads. The interactive facade helps to control the thermal environment for the workers inside and the architects have even designed in cloud computing severs which allow the occupants to work from home or elsewhere.

For a future scheme the jurors felt a trust and ‘sympathy’ towards the design. Duncan Swinhoe, stated he ‘felt a sense of trust. They seem to be doing everything right. You look at what they had and where they got to; it’s a pretty strong transformation’. For the judges, awarding the HKS’ Future: GSA scheme the winning title was not just about strong sustainability; it was the forward-thinking of the scheme. It was looking to, as Linzi Cassels put it, ‘enhance the way people live and work.’ Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the British Council for Offices felt that Future: GSA was definitely the kind of project that as architects and designers we should be championing, concluding, ‘When you look at the massive schemes in China and the USA, what this is trying to do, from a country that still uses so much energy and wastes so much, (this scheme) feels right.’

Jade Pollard

Key Facts:

Commercial Offices

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