WAN Colour in Architecture Award 2015

Christina Ingram
26 Feb 2016

A celebration in colour - the final six shortlisted announced

Now in its fourth year, the WAN Colour in Architecture Award 2015 celebrates the use of colour within architecture, recognising projects that bring an intelligent use of colour to a structure that enhances the way in which we experience its identity within its location and typology. This can be created by the use of LED lighting systems, surface coatings, or within the structure by using other materials such as metal and glass to create a more colourful and communicative environment for its users.

This year, there were 26 longlisted projects for our expert judges to assess. When overviewing the submissions, the panel took into consideration context, originality, innovation, form, function, sustainability and detail. A topic that is quite subjective, it certainly created some interesting discussions on colour and what constitutes this within architecture. 

To get to our final six, the jury in charge of this decision were; Jack Carter Associate, Renzo Piano Building Workshop, Stephen Light Partner, Rogers Stirk Harbour + Partners, Morag Morrison Partner, HawkinsBrown and Stefan Rappold Partner, Behnisch Architekten.

All the projects covered for this award, expressed both the use of colour as a bold statement, and in more subtle ways to enhance a building within its environment. They showcased to our panel just what can be achieved when using this medium and how colour can be used to enrich architecture. The final six shortlisted are as follows in no particular order:

Battersea Dogs & Cats Home (BDCH) – Mary Tealby Kennels, United Kingdom by Jonathan Clark Architects 

Named after BDCH’s founder, this project is located in the heart of the charity’s iconic Battersea site and involved building a new Kennel Building and Intake Centre, for receiving stray and unwanted dogs. Two mainline train lines pass directly by the site in and out of London Victoria’s busy train station. As the site is therefore viewable by well over 100,000 train passengers daily, it was important that this functional building needed to be aesthetically pleasing. This in turn also helped to create a stronger identity. 

Stefan noticed the simplicity of this project stating, “Conceptually it is a pretty simple building and probably the budget was not so high. What I really like is that they are trying to do something with the materials and the colour to make it nicer.”

The long coloured façades of the intake kennels are designed so that staff and volunteers can easily visually identify which section of the kennels they are in – the external colours are also reflected on the ceilings inside the main corridors. The splashes of colour enliven what is predominantly a concrete landscaped environment – concrete being the most practical surface material for urban dog kennels. Morag shared her views stating, “It would be very easy to do something in black and white / monochromatic so to put that level of effort in is really great. I think that its use of colour with its system, is actually quite sophisticated.” The ‘zig-zag’ graphic composition of the coloured sections below the stone-coloured upper band has been influenced by the continuous movement of dogs being walked up and down the length of the kennels. Jack also added, “That’s quite artistic. To put colour on it is quite a huge statement.”

House in Wilhermsdorf, Germany by René Rissland (eyland 07) + Peter Dürschinger (dürschinger architekten)

Located west of Nuremberg in immediate vicinity of the Nature Park Frankenhoehe, House in Wilhermsdorf is situated on the edge of a typical German family house settlement. The client and architect worked together tapping into the full potential of the rules to reinterpret these in their favour resulting in a house that integrates well within its context, while also creating an individual appearance.

This project had the jury in discussion on what constitutes as colour, with Jack saying “And what’s the definition of colour? The burnt wood is very strong and it is a colour. It adds a warmth and a texture.” Stephen followed up agreeing with Jacks views, “I think that you have a good point, as I see a huge amount of colour and how the light catches it, this works extremely well and they are pulling out elements to make more of a contrast. It’s about not making something that is just applied, but pulling all of the elements together. I like the limited and simple use of colour to emphasise.” 

The exterior facade of the upper floor is covered with charred larch. The silky-mat black-shimmering carbon layer protects the wood from parasites and the weather. The colour design is simple yet effective: the yellow green metal frames accentuate the facade, emphasising individual windows while the black charred larch integrates all year round into the landscape. The frames provide a good contrast to the burnt wood amplifying the effect of the surrounding greenery. 

Burntwood School, United Kingdom by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

One of the final schools procured through the Building Schools for the Future Programme, pieces together a 1950s modernist education campus for 2000 pupils and 200 staff in south-west London. The brief demanded that the hall and the existing swimming pool were kept while all other buildings were to be demolished. The new buildings – four teaching pavilions, a sports hall and a performing arts building are placed amongst the old to form a complete and coherent campus, with lawns, squares and a central pedestrian spine.

Stephen was the first to put forward his comments saying, “This project has been really well thought through and is completely integrated with all the architecture. The themes go right the way through, I think that it’s quite thorough.” 

A vibrant graphic and wayfinding scheme animates a series of entrances and defines a new identity for the school, while the interior colour scheme creates a clear internal arrangement further supporting an ease of navigation. The new school logo took inspiration from the original school emblem designed by students during the 1950s. It retains the symbolic tree and ties together the colours and patterns established in the graphic design and wayfinding. Morag agreed with the use of the historic symbol, “I actually think that it is quite sophisticated for a school because too many schools are just primary colours. To actually have reference back to the Bauhaus, to the Women’s Suffragettes and the 1950’s it’s quite inspiring. It gets people to think about the context of the architecture and architectural buildings on this site, so from that point I think it’s quite clever.” 

Mont-Agora Cultural Centre in Montbui, Spain by Pere Puig arquitecte, SLP

Mont-Agora Cultural Centre is located in Santa Margarida de Montbui, a small municipality that the great immigration wave of the 1950’s and 60’s turned into a dormitory town, on the industrial outskirts of Barcelona. 

In 2008, stipulations for a tender describing that a building was to be built, capable of demonstrating a meeting place for the townspeople, to strengthen the self-esteem of a community that needed it.  In recent decades it has gradually acquired the basic services that the town had severely lacked. Still, missing was a cultural centre capable of housing a library, conference room, auditorium and classrooms. 

In terms of colour, the purpose was to project a white building with the counterpoint of different coloured elements. The facade has white concrete panels that have been textured with letters of different alphabets, arranged in bas-relief. This left an impression with Stefan commenting, “It’s a nice work of architecture, it works with much less elements than some of the other projects we’ve seen, but does this so well.” Jack also followed on with, “It looks like a much more refined, sophisticated piece of architecture with the use of its colour that is articulating and contrasting. There’s some well executed architectural gestures here. It looks beautiful.” Morag nodded to the use of its colour, “I really like the contrast of all the colours, you get lots of white but then when you’re inside you suddenly see a colour in its purity that links you back to the façade. That sort of game-playing is really clever. It makes you think about colour as you experience the building. There’s an intensity of colour, but a balance of the materiality of the stone and the internal materials. I think that it’s really beautiful.” 

Bønsmoen Primary School, Norway by Fortunen AS

An existing secondary school from the 1960’s, situated in Eidsvoll, Norway was extended and transformed to house a primary school with a health and resource department. The existing strict column-and-beam system has been complemented by new spatial qualities, and the banded fenestration of the west and north facades has been replaced by a varying rhythm of formats and heights. The aim was to create a tight integration of different functional areas, with clear and flexible usability. Jack commented first on this project saying, “This goes just that little bit further with regards to their use of colour in wayfinding.” 

Entrances to the different age group areas have been decentralised, with clearly readable entrances that tie together indoor and outdoor areas. The different age areas are also picked out in different colours, repeated within the interiors. Inside, the base areas are subdivided by fixed furniture elements like kitchens, group spaces and podiums which can be used as performance stages as well as rest areas. Stephen applauded this project saying, “I like this project very much. I like its use of colour for the stimulation of the disabled children.”

Throughout, the colours lead the user through the building. The use of colour has meaning and the chosen colours are there to give an existing visual play, as well as the colours working as an organising and identification tool. 

Waiariki Institute of Technology Health and Science Building, New Zealand by Darryl Church Architecture 

Darryl Church Architecture (DCA) teamed up with MOAA architects to deliver this project. Located in Rotorua, the North Island of New Zealand, The Waiariki Institute of Technology Health and Science placement was considered, with the master plan being to develop a central pedestrianised boulevard connecting the main road with the local Tangatarua Marae. Tangatarua translated means “two people” and reflects the bicultural nature of the institute; two people together, in one place, in one land. Stephen supported this by saying, “I like this and would like to go and see what it’s like. There’s a strong narrative to it which is good.” 

The central North Island boasts the largest plantation forests in the southern hemisphere and the Waiariki Institute of Technology requested a building to reflect this. Interiors were created with environments of soothing plantation timbers and green hued flooring, walls and acoustic linings. The association of timber with green hues mimics the harmony in nature. With a focus on a student centric facility, the colours and interior materials were an intuitive choice. Morag admired this stating, “Its exterior is really strong. It’s interesting as it’s almost obvious to put colour into school buildings, but to actually really work as a concept for a working research building takes a bit more and it should be commended for it.”  Patterned green pigmented concrete panels and luminous green shading screens create a dynamic and animated exterior, developed as a metaphor to a forest canopy. Jack followed up with, “It’s quite cool isn’t it? I like the perforated use of colour. It sits well within a series of references and uses, the use of colour, in quite a complex architectural façade.” 

Congratulations to all those who have been shortlisted and thank you for all who entered into this year’s WAN Colour in Architecture Award. A final winner from the six shortlisted will be announced on 15 March 2016. 

Christina Ingram

Awards Coordinator

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