Villa H36 takes top spot

Monday 14 Jul 2014

Raw concrete with a 21st century twist

Many congratulations to this year’s winner of the WAN Concrete in Architecture Award, Matthias Bauer Associates, with their Villa H36 scheme. Built in concrete on the outskirts of Stuttgart, it ‘reinterprets the residential vernacular of its context in an interesting and innovative fashion’ enthused Steven Rainville and Kevin Kudo-King, both Principals at Olson Kundig Architects. Thanks to the cast-in insulation, what you see on the outside is what you see on the inside, resulting in clever homogeneity.

David Bennett, an architectural concrete consultant, assured us of its structural successes: "In the creative possibilities of concrete, the roof shape and slopes are really difficult to form." Unlike any other submission, this building explores what can been done with concrete after it has been poured. The architects created a series of core-drilled holes that act as windows which roused all the judges. "They’ve used it as a form of decoration - where they’ve cut through the pebbles and the aggregate," said Bob Fry, Managing Director at Aukett Swanke Architects. "The holes are just spectacular," affirmed David Richards of Arup.

Whilst H36 is a well-deserved winner, the judging didn’t go without dilemma. The crux of the debate was between pre-cast solutions and in-situ solutions; what should we hold in higher reverence? "They’re coming from two completely different forms of expression, and that’s what makes it so difficult!" professed Bob Fry.

The Contemporary Art Centre by Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos proved a strong rival and was held in high esteem throughout the judging process. What really stood out in regards to this project was the variety of concrete expression - from the poetic, permeable, pre-cast façade, to the contrasting in-situ, cave-like interiors within. David Bennett asserted that the design had ‘captured the plastic and sculptural quality of concrete superbly’.

Another building that stole the attention of the judges was Allen Jack + Cottier’s Kerrie Murphy school building. Amazed by the technical achievement of the building, judges have awarded it a ‘Highly Commended’ status for its achievements in the field. The entire building is made up of only 4 pieces of concrete per floor; each piece is not only vast but also ready to erect on site in the lightning time of 3.5 hours per floor. "Exactly what you need" insists Bob Fry. "Such an interesting piece of work."

In spite of all this, Matthias Bauer Associates’ H36 came out trumps and, all judges agreed, on well-founded reasoning. David Richards, the leader of Arup’s UKMEA Facades Group, informed us that ‘achieving that quality of in-situ concrete is much more difficult than a pre-fabricated solution’. Overall, the H36 house focused on one type of concrete: raw and poured in-situ; the type that everybody knows. 

Not only was it executed with utter sophistication and flair - an impressive feat for pouring on site - it also focused on a single approach that pushed the boundaries of how that approach could be used. Raw concrete re-vamped with new technical possibilities, new forms and new textures - that’s what we’re seeing in the wonderfully composed H36 house, the well-deserved winner of the 2014 WAN Concrete in Architecture Award.

Eleanor Hill

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