Setting the right tone...

24 Feb 2014

Animated discussions in WAN Jury session for 2013 Colour in Architecture Award

From the crude to the simple and the subtle to the garish, the entries to the WAN Colour in Architecture Awards could not have been more varied this year. Or more hotly contested…

Last week the WAN jury met at One Alfred Place in London to debate the merits of introducing colour into architectural design in response to 33 longlisted entries. This is undoubtedly one of the most problematic categories of our awards programme to judge due to the subjective nature of using colour in design, as we were to find out during the session.

Joining us in the room were: Amarjit Kalsi, Senior Consultant at Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners; Design and Colour Consultant Frances Tobin; and Morag Morrison, Partner at Hawkins\\Brown and winner of the 2011 WAN Colour in Architecture Award for the New Biochemistry Building at the University of Oxford in the United Kingdom. Bart Akkerhuis from Renzo Piano Building Workshop submitted his comments from Paris.

It quickly came to light that the incorporation of colour into the design of a building can generate an emotional response and several of our entries were ‘love it or hate it’ structures. One project that narrowly missed a place on the shortlist was GLM’s Natural Retreats at John O’Groats as a result of its strong use of colour.

While Kalsi and Akkerhuis were both very taken with the regeneration of this formerly decrepit ‘national embarrassment’ into a colourful array of holiday homes - Akkerhuis applauding the ‘great use of colour to deconstruct the big building volume’ - both Morrison and Tobin were disuaded by the ‘brash’ and ‘crude’ selection of tones, concluding that it was out of context to reference Scandinavian fishing villages as a point of inspiration in Scotland.

As such, the first project to make it onto the shortlist for the 2013 WAN Colour in Architecture Award was J. M. Lim Architect’s Da Ya Kindergarten in Taiwan. Both Morrison and Tobin were delighted by the gentle gradation of hues shown in the flooring throughout this scheme and the ability of the architects to use colour in a sophisticated way with such young users in mind.

Next to the shortlist was the Fish Market in Bergen by Eder Biesel Arkiteker AS which was praised by Akkerhuis for its ‘distinctive use of material and colour which makes the building integrate seamlessly in the historic centre of Bergen by creating a real urban space, a place where people meet’. All four jurors were very impressed by the relationship this community building has with its local context and the ‘rhythms created’ through the use of colour.

Robert Greg Shand Architects + URBNarc Pte Ltd took the third spot with their Indian Heritage Center, A Glowing Lantern for ‘Little India’ in Singapore. Both Tobin and Kalsi were transported to visions of Bollywood by the concept design, Tobin to the vibrant musicality and Kalsi to the vivid hues used in film posters. The scheme was also praised for its perception of ‘modern India’ rather than the more traditional areas of design that are often reinterpreted.

The jury panel was similarly impressed by EPR Architects’ American Express offices in Brighton, UK. AMEX is the largest employer in the coastal city and has just relocated its staff to this new building across the road from its original base. The colour has been introduced through the use of brightly-toned blinds, giving an element of control to the building users. ‘It has got a nice feel to it’, noted Kalsi while Morrison imagined the positive impact that this approach could have, filtering coloured light through the blinds into the interior spaces.

One of the most visually arresting schemes submitted this year was the Gethsemane Lutheran Church in Seattle by Olson Kundig Architects, a practice not usually cited for their use of bright hues. It was the contemporary interpretation of a stained glass window that won the jury panel over and the overall atmosphere created by the array of tints which splay out across the floor. ‘I think what’s nice about this is that it’s done very simply; it would be a nice community space,’ concluded Kalsi.

The National Stadium in Warsaw, Poland by Lichtvision was the sixth and final addition to the 2013 WAN Colour in Architecture Award with Tobin declaring ‘it would make you want to win!’ With a controlled colour palette of red, white and silver in line with the tones of the Polish flag, the stadium was praised for its ability to instil a sense of national pride for home supporters and intimidation to the opposing side.   

Congratulations to all who made the shortlist in this year's WAN Colour in Architecture Award and thank you to all who participated in the programme. The winner will be announced in the Tuesday 11 March issue of News Review.

Sian Disson
News Editor

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