The WAN Future Projects Education Award 2015

Nick Myall
Thursday 11 Feb 2016

Six shortlisted projects showcasing the best in future education projects

The WAN Future Projects Education Award 2015 was launched as a new category last year in order to champion creations and concepts that have pushed their typology forward and demonstrated an imaginative holistic approach. For our purposes, education covers diverse types of institution from nurseries, training facilities, schools and universities, to adult education.

From the quality of the 15 longlisted projects, it’s clear that the new category has got off to a flying start. Our panel of expert judges scrutinised each of these submissions, taking into consideration factors such as orginality, innovation, form and special quality, sustainability and – importantly – sensitivity to context. They also judged the aesthetic merit and materials palette of each design. All the entrants were required to present clear visualisations and concise descriptions of the whole project concept, and from these, a shortlist of six entries has now been drawn up.

Our first ever Future Projects Education panel boasted three experts in their field:  Jude Harris, Director at Jestico + Whiles and co-leader of the practice’s education studio; Ole Smith, Director and founder of NOA – Nordic Architects; Keith Papa, Architect Director London specialising in design for education at Building Design Partnership.

All three judges were very impressed with the levels of inventiveness and site-specific adaptations evident in the shortlisted six. These are listed below in no particular order.

Belvedere Extension in Vienna, Austria by Mayr-Keber ZT GMBH

The Belvedere, composed of the Upper and Lower Palaces and the park, is one of Europe's most important baroque ensembles. In 1781 it was converted into a public gallery. The size of its collection has now outgrown the space and makes it difficult to accommodate large exhibitions. The big basin, one of the park’s main features, acts as a mirror that doubles the size of the Upper Palace through reflection. Mayr-Keber’s suggestion for an extension gives life to that illusion: by placing an additional two-tier gallery space right underneath the water surface. Under their proposals the basin functions as a skylight measuring 4.500 square-metres, held by a steel-glass construction, which references the idea of a baroque polished diamond. The steel construction is coated with a second glass skin, filtering the daylight and providing another security layer. Keith felt that ‘the space created would be phenomenal’, with which Jude and Ole both agreed.

The Choice School in Thiruvalla, Kerala, India by CetraRuddy Architecture

The new educational community, the Choice School, re-imagines school architecture in India, creating a prototype that will help revitalise rural communities and empower future generations of children. The prototype houses grades 1-12 in one building, allowing different ages to mix and providing continuity through its three sections - Primary, Middle and High School Blocks - each with its own entry, offices, classrooms, library and student commons. The prototype’s modular design will allow for the addition of further campuses. The new Choice School looks like a part of the landscape of Southern India. Specific influences include the traditional Kerala houseboat; local materials such as stone, clay tiles and Palmyra Palm; the area’s reliance on vibrant colour and texture, and the region’s dramatic weather - a mix of heavy rains and bright sunshine. Keith commented: “This project hints at this idea of outside space being allowed into the building, a journey through the space.”

UFCSPA Campus Igara in Canoas, Brazil by OSPA Arquitetura e Urbanismo 

The new campus at UFCSPA (Federal University of Health Sciences of Porto Alegre) aims to be more than a public institution. OSPA’s core premise for the development of the 26,385 sq m Campus Igara was that it should also be a public space. The result? What at first glance may appear to be a programmatic solution of volumetric density is soon revealed to be a fluid and permeable square. The program develops within the natural extension of the sidewalk, from which people can walk directly into the sports building. The open space articulates the Campus’ functions far beyond academic activities – which are housed in the two high-rise blocks - to encourage a diverse range of people to use it. A longitudinal axis, accessible and inviting, connects the two faces, or ‘interfaces’. The judges all found the designs strong and striking, with Keith commenting: “You have to agree that it is pushing the typology of sport in education.”

Hazel Wolf K-8 in Seattle, USA by NAC Architecture

The project evolves its typology by spatially blending traditionally separate parts of the school program. Located on a tight triangular urban site, Hazel Wolf K-8 uses environmental learning as the lens through which students focus their studies, something which impressed Jude: “They are trying to use the building to encourage learning…This is what education is about, a school that has been well thought about.”  Maximising use of the site for environmental learning was a critical design generator. The central courtyard has several teaching areas focused on planting and storm water management, including a constructed wetland. The courtyard extends up and over the administration area and art room, creating more spaces for outdoor learning. A botanical garden provides an evolving outdoor laboratory, while a living wall at the main entry presents the school’s mission to the entire community. Keith commented: “The garden does a nice job by linking the elements.”

Seoul Foreign School, New High School in Seoul, Korea by Ennead Architects

In 2012 Seoul Foreign School (SFS) celebrated its 100th anniversary. With a focus on promoting the physical learning environment of SFS while preserving the unique character of its campus, this new master plan provides the oldest international school in Korea with a road map to plan proactively for and manage anticipated growth and refurbishment. The first phase includes the New High School as well as campus improvements, site repair and landscaping. The 17,761 sq m New High School will be rooted in its context while shaped by international best practices. The design leverages architecture and landscape to optimise the performance of its students and teachers through extensive daylight modelling and virtual design of uniform and adaptable classrooms. The project incorporates functions typically seen in college facilities and modifies them for a high school environment - for example, flipped classrooms, unprogrammed lounge spaces and areas within which students can collaborate with each other on independent projects.

College of Business University of South Florida St. Petersburg in Florida, USA by ikon.5 architects | Harvard Jolly

Conceived as an ‘athenaeum for business scholars’ and described by our judges as ‘interesting’ and ‘unusual’, this three-storey, 68,000 sq ft structure takes inspiration from its Tampa Bay setting and the indigenous coral stone. Like the stone, the building is a porous container with openings carved out of its volume that house various program elements and allow sunlight and landscaping to penetrate deep within the structure’s core. One of these openings is a palm-lined courtyard with seating that supports learning at the building’s entrance. Other openings house a light-filled central commons and an adjacent scholars’ garden. The multi-storey commons and scholars’ garden are spatially intermeshed and ringed with a trading room, community room, breakout rooms and classrooms. The most unique feature of the building is its bespoke glass façade, which metaphorically recalls the deep openings in regional organic coral.

Thank you to all involved in the WAN Future Projects Education Award 2015. From the shortlisted six an overall winner will be announced on 23rd February 2016. 


Gail Taylor

Features Editor

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