We were very excited to host the inaugural Façade of the Year judging session last week. Despite the category’s fledgling nature, entries had flooded in from the world over and we were spoilt for choice with the selection of weird and wonderful building shells, made of all imaginable materials across the technological spectrum - from highly engineered moving alloy parts to honest bundles of twigs.
We were joined by several experts in this tightly-knit field: Paul Kalkhoven, Head of Technical Development and leader of Foster + Partners’ Construction Review Group; Dr Mikkel Kragh, global Façade and Architectural Design Leader for High Performance Building Solutions at Dow Corning; Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners façade expert Stephen Light; David Richards, leader of Arup’s UKMEA façades group; and alinea consulting founding member and CTBUH trustee Steve Watts.
The first façade to be considered went straight into the top six - the highly engineered moving sun shades of the Al Bahr Towers by Aedas. Noted as a clever way of realising a fully glazed building in the desert, the reactive, crocus-like façade won the plaudits for enabling a contemporary standard office block in exceptionally harsh conditions.
Second to make the cut was Guy Hollaway Architects’ Crit Building in Canterbury, which successfully brightens up a mundane campus square with a playful, moving façade of aluminium flaps. The jury were particularly enamoured with the hanging chains which channel rainwater, and the neat integration of façade and appreciation of windows from within.
Next to impress was the moving ThyssenKrupp Quartier façade by Frener & Reifer. It didn’t take long before the panel was seduced by the high-end technicality and complexity of the project, with its 'beautifully done' interlocking sun protection system. A place on the shortlist was secure.
Fourth came a curveball in the shape of Kebony’s beautifully crafted KREOD project, which succeeds in blurring the line between structure and façade. The quality of space and light within KREOD was noted as 'rather lovely' and the innovative use of treated softwood much admired.
Then came HOK’s striking Harlem Hospital, with its beautifully printed glass panels forming a 'stunning' mural. “It is a one trick pony, but it’s a big trick,” commented David Richards. The rest of the panel agreed the mural transcended mere gimmickry, achieving ties with its surroundings and providing an uplifting hospital façade.
Finally, the panel was impressed enough by the quality of DSDHA’s Alex Monroe Studio façade to award it the final place on our shortlist. Initially puzzled, the judges were soon enchanted by the elaborate yet sustainable and cost-effective ribbed zinc-clad timber of the façade.
The judges were also intrigued by Richard M Wright and Barbara Griffin’s experimental and creative Digital Capabilities project, which 'mines the twittersphere' by responding to onlookers, provoking ideas and revealing glimpses of flowers through translucent panels. For these reasons, Digital Capabilities was awarded a commendation.
Another commendation was awarded to Olson Kundig Architects’ Art Stable, with the judges charmed by the attractive yet functional 'industrial chic' of the project’s opening façade. The innovations of this personalisable, sustainable façade did not go unnoticed, with special praise reserved for its cheap, simple system and 'gutsy' hinges.
We would like to offer our warmest congratulations to the six projects that made it through to the shortlist and to the two that were awarded special commendation. We must also give very special thanks to every practice that entered for helping create such a fascinating and varied array of projects.