The shortlist for the WAN Performing Spaces Award was finally agreed in what was to be a fascinating day for our expert judges. Although a smaller, more specialist category, the panel were amazed at the sheer depth and range of projects brought before them in terms of geography, size and scope.
The judging panel for the day comprised: Chris Cotton, Chief Executive of the Royal Albert Hall; Michael Hammond, Editor in Chief of World Architecture News; Raj Patel, Principal at Arup Acoustics; David Staples, Principal Consultant for Theatre Projects; and Roger Watts, Associate Director at Haworth Tompkins.
First onto the shortlist was a Flanagan Lawrence project, The Royal Welsh College of Music and Drama (Cardiff, Wales). Chris Cotton thought it ‘a beautifully executed project’. He went on to say: "Having experience of a concert setting is very important because lots of people don’t get that experience and actually being able to feel that you are in a formal setting makes a huge difference to people’s performance." It was generally agreed that the form sits in the landscape perfectly and is a great environment for young people.
Seabury Hall Creative Arts Barn by Flansburgh Architects (Makawao, Hawaii) commanded the panel’s attention with its ‘relaxed, barn aesthetic’. Roger Watts noted that it’s ‘really beautiful, simple and has an ambience from the photographs [where] you can tell the performer or student would feel uninhibited and relaxed, invigorated. It works very well’.
David Hughes Architects made it into the shortlist with their Park Theatre scheme (London, England). Raj Patel praised its ‘good level of immediacy’ and, considering the tight constraints of the site, confirmed that the scheme was ‘elegantly done’. Michael Hammond added that it’s a ‘great adaptive re-use project, compact urban performing space, with vibrant ancillary spaces. Very London’.
Harpa - Reykjavík Concert Hall and Conference Centre by Henning Larsen Architects (Reykjavík, Iceland) was next into the shortlist. The panel felt that it was ‘a stunning building’ that served a strong community function as well as being ‘a national icon for Iceland’.
Kilden Performing Arts Center by ALA (Kristiansand, Norway) completed the shortlist. Chris Cotton noted that it ‘fits with its surroundings. You feel as though you can enjoy the architecture without being overawed’. It was also felt that, similar to the Harpa scheme in Iceland, it served and galvanized the community well and the building retained an element of simplicity.
A project singled out to achieve Highly Commended was Soundforms by Flanagan Lawrence. The panel agreed that it was clearly going for innovation in trying to get the concert hall experience for musician and audience alike in an outdoor context. David Staples noted: "If something like this appeared in your local park and you were a teenage boy or girl you might go to a concert, because it looks pretty slick and it has a bit of a 'wow factor' that would appeal to audiences."
We would like to offer our warmest congratulations to the six projects that made it through to the shortlist and to Flanagan Lawrence for also achieving a Special Commendation. We would also like to give a very special thanks to all the practices that entered for creating such fascinating debate for the judging panel.