'Pushing the residential typology'

Monday 25 Feb 2013

TETRARC, Bjarke Ingels Group & DIALOG win WAN AWARDS 2012 Residential Sector

The winners for the WAN AWARDS 2012 Residential Sector, Future Schemes and Completed Schemes could not be more different. Towering over the north end of the Granville Bridge in Vancouver is Bjarke Ingels Group (BIG) & DIALOG’s Beach and Howe Tower which scooped the Future Schemes Award. This is a project which is set to create a new urban public space for local residents and is described by juror Jonathon Wyatt, Senior Project Director of Grosvenor as being a ‘dynamic space which contributes to a sense of place’.

Winning the Completed Schemes category of the WAN AWARDS 2012 Residential Sector is TETRARC’s social housing contribution Boréal in Nantes. Here the architects proposed the opposite of BIG, in that they demolished the existing Mignard Skyscraper to make way for their social housing scheme which now provides residential units for the city’s ‘low-income peoples’.

Both projects were to be praised for their approach to difficult sites. Whilst TETRARC’s scheme dealt with a stigmatised 1960s skyscraper, BIG and DIALOG’s Beach and Howe Tower had to deal with an intensely challenging site. With its triangular footprint the building has to twist into the form of a square at the top to increase capacity for residential units within the building. Juror Neil Billet, Partner at Buro Happold praised the project for its ‘spatial and architectural response’ to the complex site.

Not only did BIG and DIALOG successfully overcome the complications of a complex site, the jurors felt that the scheme was overall a contribution to the surrounding neighbourhood. The provision of a new urban realm also added an edge to the scheme. The jurors hoped that the three additional elements to the design - working, shopping and leisure - would also help to contribute towards a sense of community and neighbourhood atmosphere. Not only was this is a scheme which helped to provide a sense of place but juror Craig Casci, Founding Director of GRID Architects felt that BIG and DIALOG’s scheme really ‘pushed the residential typology’ with juror Claire Bennie, Development Director of The Peabody Trust commenting that Beach and Howe was a ‘rather beautiful object’.

Also to be praised by Bennie was the Completed Schemes winner, Boréal by TETRARC. The project won praise and admiration from the judges for its philanthropic approach to trying to solve to the housing shortage problem in Nantes, France. Set in a city where there are 5,200 inhabitants and only 2,400 homes, Boréal was a much-needed intervention in the city. The judges were wowed by the innovative and ‘boundary-pushing design’ combined with the drive to create positive change for the people within the city.

The scheme is comprised of 11 slightly rotated vertical units linked together by a beautiful access deck, described by Casci as being ‘done really well.’ Not only did this create the necessary low-cost housing but the architects pushed the typology further, ensuring that residents felt a sense of community and belonging at Boréal. By giving each resident their own greenhouse and plot of land the people who occupy the area are given a real sense of ownership and community. Wyatt particularly enjoyed the strong thinking that drove the scheme forward, finding it ‘refreshing to see someone thinking out of the box and pushing the boundaries of affordable housing’.

For the judges Boréal was a scheme which promoted community and a sense of belonging. But this was not the only scheme which the judges could envision people growing up and growing old in. Pollard Thomas Edwards Architects’ Connaught Gardens in London was a particular favourite of Billet, who described it as ‘a house that grows with you’ and all the jurors enjoyed the ‘hierarchy of the family’ which was clearly present in the design.

It was, however, TETRARC’s scheme that ‘gave the sense that there is going to be a community there’, more so than Connaught Gardens. What the judges enjoyed most was the laid back approach to the landscaping; providing space and allotments for the residents but not dictating what should be there appealed to the judges, who determined that this was ‘not a landscape but a garden generating community that will be used’.

Sforza Seilern Architects’ project Jabi Lake, Abuja, Nigeria was given a commendation by the jury.

Jade Pollard

All images of TETRARC's project: ©S.Chalmeau

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