WAN Small Spaces Award 2015

Lydia O’Callaghan
19 Feb 2016

12 shortlisted projects championing the best in permanent and temporary small structures

The WAN Small Spaces Award 2015 showcases the creative thinking, imaginative designs and inspirational ideas behind small-scale builds from tree houses and tram shelters to pods and pavilions. Split into two subcategories – Permanent and Temporary, each champions a shortlist and winner.

There were 25 longlisted projects that were assessed recently by a panel of expert judges. Analysing a number of factors: originality; innovation; form; sustainability; context - the architects also needed to demonstrate how they addressed key elements of the client’s brief, as well as prove how their scheme had pushed the boundaries for this building type. 

This year’s esteemed jury panel were: James Furzer, Architect at Spatial Design Architects, Naomi Milgrom AO, Chair of the Naomi Milgrom Foundation, Doan Thanh Ha, Founder of H&P Architects, and Carl Turner Founding Director of Carl Turner Architects.

The project results for both the temporary and permanent sub-categories are listed below in no particular order.  


Borden Park Pavilion in Canada by gh3.

The building attempts to recall the history of Borden Park through a reintroduction of the playful qualities of its status as an amusement park in the early 20th century. Primary functions of the pavilion are confined to the core allowing a complete 360-degree promenade around the building perimeter to maximize year-round engagement with the park and landscape through a fully transparent exterior skin. The pavilion’s form and expressive timber truss structure evoke the qualities of children’s toy drums and merry-go-rounds. Naomi felt the structure was a: “Simple and elegant solution in which architecture dissolves into the landscape.” James was taken with the architects play with privacy and shelter, saying: “The user experiences a new interaction with their surroundings and the public outside of the building, a place to literally sit unnoticed, contemplate and watch the world go by.”

Corinthian Gardens Smokers' Shelter in the United States by ASK Studio

The project is located in a struggling neighbourhood with safety concerns for the older residents who must be outside of the building to smoke. The space 'hides' smokers by means of reflective Stainless steel mesh during the day, but becomes transparent when lighted after dark and readily monitored by staff and security cameras for safety. James thought this project was fantastic, commenting: “The project is really clever with the idea of privacy and security whilst being mindful of the currently healthy living trend we currently live in.” It is a simple assemblage of concrete, composite wood and metal, and is designed to be low maintenance and able to withstand heavy use without suffering from stigma of disrepair or broken components. “The design carefully balances the needs of residents, safety and function without glorifying the antisocial nature of the activity it shelters” commented Naomi. 

Water Tower Renovation in China by META-Project. 

All the judges were particularly taken with this scheme, that’s located in the campus of a rundown military factory that was founded in 1959 during the Great Leap Forward. In an attempt to engage community life through adaptive renovation, the outside forms an attractive intervention in the urban landscape, and on the inside it offers a space for public activities for the nearby communities. Doan was first to say: “This is an interesting example of the ability to restore the likely disappeared space and usher in common space for future community from the closed past.”  Housing a number of activities, including casual gathering, movies, performance and a mini-café - it’s inviting more people to engage and rethink the co-existence of history and contemporary reality. Carl concluded: “An interesting example of how architecture can adopt memory as a means to deliver community engagement.” 

Hills of Music - Mochudi in Botswana by Richard Kroeker Design Inc.

The client required a project that would serve as a performance space for dramatic dance and music performances in the tribal region of Botswana, on the fringe of the Kalahari Desert. Sited to take advantage of the acoustic space created by the natural rock outcrops of the surrounding Rasesa Hills. Materials were sourced locally; the tensile shade structure design is derived from the way drum structures of the region use posts to tension the drum head over the body of the drum. Naomi commented: “It’s a wonderful and simple cost effective response to the design brief, the local cultural and landscape environment.” The venue provides employment for local singers, dancers, craftspeople, and caterers. It also provides a variety of performance modes for very little budget, and was designed to be built using local skills and resources as well as drawing on local cultural practices. Carl said: “This project has been selected because of its social engagement and low budget.” 

Garden Studio and Workshop in the United Kingdom by Rodic Davidson Architects.

The architect inherited his grandfather’s workbench and tools that had sat unused for almost 30 years, which were brought to life in this black timber garden studio and model-making workshop. “A beautifully crafted project to tell a story about a family legacy” commented Carl. For the studio, the cladding forms a continuous rain screen and wraps around the entire building. The larger studio building is very highly insulated and incorporates a super-efficient air-source heat pump. The building is enveloped with a black timber rain screen over a complete wrapper of a rubber membrane for water-proofing. A workbench was made from maple accommodating a lower platform for the Meddings pillar drill and a sink. “An elegant solution to a typical garden shed” said Naomi.

Visible Studio in the United Kingdom by Invisible Studio. 

A new studio for the architecture practice that was built with the help of neighbours and friends, using untreated and unseasoned timber grown on site. The project was an exercise in establishing a system of building that could be constructed by unskilled labour, with minimal drawings, allowing ad hoc discoveries and improvisation to be embraced, and the tyranny of predetermined design to be escaped. The project is heated by a waste wood burner using only waste from the woodland, and water from the roof feeds into an attenuation pond that forms a natural habitat. “The building fits perfectly within the current debate about sustainability and self-construction” said Carl, with Naomi going on to say:  “A cost effective and collaborative approach to architecture.”


PULS | Pop Up Luggage Space in the Netherlands by TomDavid Architecten. 

A Pop Up Luggage Space (P.U.L.S.) with an elevated terrace providing stunning views over the river and of Rotterdam's skyline. Creating another 350 m2 of additional variable space, the industrial 'umbrella structure' TomDavid devised, only unfolds when necessary. The membrane walls, made of sailing canvas, can be lowered to create a temporary luggage space within four minutes. “Blurring the boundaries between external and internal spaces can be a fantastic tool within architecture” commented James. The sturdy steel construction, with only two front columns and a truss, allows for a large span and gives the terrace a floating appearance. Naomi felt this was: “An effective solution to temporary storage issue that helps maintain views and sense of the existing architecture”, with Carl going to say:  “This is a beautifully engineered temporary space which engages with the concept of adaptability in line with the transient nature of the site.” 

MPavilion in Australia by AL_A. 

MPavilion is an annual architectural commission initiated and managed by the Naomi Milgrom Foundation. Due to the conflict of interest Naomi was not involved in the judging of this scheme. Each MPavilion is designed as a civic space and cultural hub for a four-month free program of talks, performances and workshops over the summer. The structure consists of 5 to 7mm thick translucent UV-protecting ‘petals’ mounted on 97 slender carbon fibre columns. Where the columns connect to the petals, 91 bespoke LED lights are installed, which are activated at night to produce scattered halos of light, synchronised to a commissioned soundscape. “The technological experimentation delivers a lightness which seems to relate perfectly to the natural context and scope of the project” said Carl. Doan went on to say: “The project slightly touches the ground and almost perfectly harmonizes with the wonderful surroundings of the land plot.”

Story Pod in Canada by Atelier Kastelic Buffey. 

The ‘Story Pod’ is a community supported lending library. Based on the essential project guidelines: compactness, transportability, energy efficiency and ease of construction, the Story Pod utilizes a pure, simple form to maximum capacity and impact. When closed, the abstract, black volume acts as an urban marker, drawing curious residents from nearby Main Street and an adjacent walking trail. “A simple, cost effective solution that draws people in and expresses its function” commented Naomi. Carl went on to say: “The Story Pod is beautifully crafted object which gives opportunity to social interaction” said Carl, with James concluding: “The transformation process of this architecture is genius.”

Brick-topia in Spain by Map13 Barcelona. 

‘Brick-topia’ was an unreinforced masonry shell made of brick using a traditional construction technique called tile vault. It was the result of the combination of the latest structural analysis and form-finding computational tools with a traditional, sustainable, cheap and effective construction technique. The shape of the pavilion is the outcome of a thorough design process optimising the structure through geometry with the software RhinoVault. Built in three weeks, the unreinforced masonry shell showed a complex geometry with a thickness ranging from 65 mm to 118 mm and it was designed to present challenging features in terms of structure and construction. Carl commented: “It’s interesting example of how traditional techniques can be deployed to realise challenging geometries.” Doan went on to say: “A step that broadens the knowledge of use of bricks in architecture and gives inspiration to the future applications featured with brick material.”

Camera Chiara in Italy by Annabel Karim Kassar Architects

Invited to the Energy For Creativity exhibition in Milan, Annabel Karim Kassar Architects chose to display an architectural installation, Camera Chiara, with two pavilions: Liwan and Camera Obscura. Conceived to be reused and reassembled in a different location after its launch in Milan: the Liwan as a mobile shelter and the Camera Obscura as an itinerant cinema. “The stand out element of this project was the materials used. The beauty of the rough tenured burnt wood entices you into the telescopic elements. This coupled alongside the bright coloured interiors comforts the user, relaxing them enabling them to really ‘experience’ the space.” said James, with Doan going on to say: “I like the architect’s idea of applying cameras, as well as the way they bring the images to users via the ability to acquire the colours of life from the project camera in harmony with the surroundings.”

Reflects in the United States by SILO AR+D llc

The brief called for an innovative Treehouse design that reconnected guests of all ages to the outdoors through interactive experiences that reveal the benefits of staying engaged with outdoor environments. Doan was first to say: “The small -scaled project can be very inspiring to places in shortage of outdoor recreational space with extremely limited land bank.” Installed in about 10 weeks, the resulting abstract, planar, and porous architecture, in combination with the surface reflection, yields a variety of dynamic views whether on the ground or within, effectively engaging everyone in the Treehouse experience. Spaces throughout contain places to sit, walk through, and climb. “An amusing and playful space for children” said Naomi, with Carl going on to say: “Playfully designed, the structure is an example of how architecture can be passively 'taught' in an interactive way.”

Thank you to all involved in the WAN Small Spaces Award 2015. The winner will be announced on 8th March 2016. 


Lydia O’Callaghan

Awards Coordinator

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