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Monday 11 Feb 2013

'Strong architectural determinism' in 2012 WAN House of the Year Award Shortlist

The longlist for the WAN’s 2012 House of the Year Award provided an impressive array of submissions from architects all over the world, and it was the judges’ hard task to whittle the list of 32 down to 6. Submissions ranged from a variety of cultures and briefs; from cliff-top homes in Hawaii to the East African jungle and holiday homes to affordable housing prototypes, the longlist was studded with exciting projects which tackled each brief in its own unique way.

The jury included: Ellie Stathaki, Architecture Editor of Wallpaper; Alison Brooks, Founder of Alison Brooks Architects; Piers Gough, Founding Partner of CZWG Architects; Tomohiro Hata, Founder of Tomohiro Hata Architects; and Jim Olson, Founding Partner of Olson Kundig Architects.

For the esteemed jurors it was projects which had a story to tell about the site and local culture which placed them at the head of the pack. Studio Seilern’s Gota Residence in East Africa in particular drew the judges’ attention. The project described by Ellie Stathaki, Architecture Editor of Wallpaper as having the ‘wow factor,’ impressed the judges with its uncompromising attitude. The playful design which integrated the formidable rock formations brought a sense of context and place to the project, incorporating a few ideas that Alison Brooks, Founder of Alison Brooks Architects ‘had not seen before’.

Another project with a strong contextual link to the stunning landscape was the Clifftop house by Dekleva Gregoric Arhitekti. Set overlooking glorious cliff-tops and with stunning sea views the house’s main feature of a folded and geometrically complex roof folding itself into the landscape had a beautiful ‘floaty’ quality about it, reminiscent of a ‘sting ray flapping over the landscape’, with remote judge Tomohiro Hata of Tomohiro Hata Architects commenting that ‘this house has structure as if it was one extension of the environment’.

Sean Godsell’s Tanderra House in Victoria was another scheme which responded to context in a unique and powerful way. However, unlike its fellow projects on the shortlist, Tanderra House was in no way indulgent or played with the immediate context. Set in an incredibly harsh environment this house sought to provide shelter and relief from these extreme conditions, earning the jurors’ respect. For Piers Gough, Founding Partner of CZWG Architects, the Tanderra House is a ‘determined’ project, one which ‘has its own identity which is strongly pursued, but where is the joy?’ Our other remote judge Jim Olson, Founding Partner of Olson Kundig Architects praised the project for its ‘sustainable low-tech manner’ whilst providing a ‘powerful and dramatic’ design.

Perhaps the most economical scheme to make it onto the shortlist was Crosson Clarke Carnachan Architect’s Hut on Sleds in Whangapoua New Zealand. This project delighted the jurors with minimalistic use of space; a whole 40 sq m for a family of five! As juror Ellie Stathaki pointed out, ‘you see a lot of 40 sq m flats in London but none of them as good as this!’ The architects’ ingenuity to create a beach home which could be moved and free from the ‘stolidness’ of architecture did not go unnoticed and its originality, beauty and economy of space made the jurors suggest that ‘this is what they should use to solve the housing crisis’.

It was Carl Turner’s Slip House in Brixton, however, which actually did propose to alleviate the housing crisis. Built as a potential affordable housing prototype, the property was commended by Piers Gough as being something ‘great for Britain’. The ‘admirable’ project won support from all judges with respect to its adaptability and economic use of space and materiality.

The final project to make the shortlist was also commended for its modesty and integration within its ‘magical’ landscape. To Piers Gough, the ‘strong architectural determinism with modern articulation’ of Herbst Architects’ Under Pohutukawa deserved its spot on the shortlist. This was a project where the ‘structure spoke of the surrounding trees’ and was both complex and controlled at the same time, and was for our judges ‘a virtuouso piece of work.’

Jade Pollard

House of the Year Shortlist

Slip House, Brixton, London, United Kingdom - Carl Turner Architect

Very brave (Alison Brooks)
I like how it stands on the street, in terms of its context (Ellie Stathaki)
Great for Britain but ordinary for the rest of the world (Piers Gough)

Clifftop House, Maui, Hawaii, United States - Dekleva Gregoric Arhitekti

Interesting, clear, not easy to do, controlled (Alison Brooks)
It’s more ambitious because when you do a folded roof like that, you have to co-ordinate the roof geometries with the plan forms; there is a more organic relationship between the two (Alison Brooks)
Nice sophistication (Piers Gough)
Floatiness of a sting ray, flaps over the landscape (Alison Brooks)

Gota Residence, East Africa - Sforza Seilern Architects

Strong overtones of Neutra but in a good way (Alison Brooks)

It has the ‘wow’ effect (Ellie Stathaki)
Working in a climate that lets you go crazy- this is where you can integrate architecture with landscape (Alison Brooks)
It’s done with absolute conviction; beautiful (Piers Gough)

Tanderra House, Mornington Peninsula, Victoria, Australia - Sean Godsell Architects

Existential and purist of all the houses (Alison Brooks)
I like the idea of the screens and shade and shapes that you get (Ellie Stathaki)
It has its own identity which is strongly pursued (Piers Gough)

Under Pohutukawa, Piha, Auckland - Herbst Architects Ltd

Structure talks to the tree branches (Ellie Stathaki)
I’m very taken with this one; most wonderfully integrated into its landscape (Piers Gough)
Virtuoso piece of work, but someone who’s completely in control of their medium and language, however in a familiar context and response (Alison Brooks)

Hut on Sleds, Whangapoua, New Zealand - Crosson Clarke Carnachan Architects

I love it (Piers Gough)
It doesn’t steal someone else beach (Piers Gough)
I love this, I would buy one if I could! (Ellie Stathaki)
That is so great; this is what they should use to solve the housing crisis (Alison Brooks)

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