WAN Metal in Architecture Award 2015

Ella Pilkington
Friday 26 Feb 2016

Six shortlisted projects redefining the structural and creative possibilities of metal in architecture

The WAN Metal in Architecture Award 2015 celebrates designs, whether large or small, across the whole metal spectrum including: Steel, Tin, Zinc, Lead, Aluminium, Nickel and Copper. This award recognises the increasingly high standards within metal design and construction, highlighting the structural and innovative possibilities of metal in architecture. 

There were 25 longlisted projects that were thoroughly examined recently by a panel of expert judges. Considering a number of factors: originality; innovation; form; sustainability; context; function and detail. The shortlisted projects were then tested to see whether their design had either: overcome key challenges in the client brief, and/or, has evolved or pushed the boundaries of the specific typology. 

This year’s jury panel were: James Dixon, Associate Director for John McAslan + Partners, Damian Eley, Associate Director for ARUP and Harbinder Singh Birdi, Partner at Hawkins/Brown. The three experts felt the longlisted projects showcased a great variety for this category, and the selected six shortlisted and two commended projects demonstrated great examples of what is possible within metal in architecture. 

The shortlisted and commended projects are listed below in no particular order.

Ngoolark Student Services, Perth, Australia by JCY Architects & Urban Designers  

Ngoolark is a Students Services building for the Joondalup campus, located in Perth, Australia. The building becomes a ‘place’ which connects an entire precinct including the library, lecture theatre, the chancellory building and key campus pedestrian links.

The external fabric is composed of metal (steel frame, gold perforated Aluminium, Alucobond and roof sheeting). These metals and in particular the gold perforated aluminium were purposefully selected for their ability to perform the tasks of providing quality cladding but also perforating, folding and manipulating the sheeting. JCY was able to create a functional sun shading veil around the building which embodies the beautiful patterns of the chest feathers of the endangered Carnaby Black Cockatoo (Ngoolark). Harbinder noticed the solar shading element commenting:”an interesting use of metal in terms of preparation within that climate.” James contributed to his comment: “especially in Western Australia where it’s baking hot.”   

Combined with the mix of gold Alucobond panels which are also used on the cores and lower level walls, the surfaces of the building respond to light and weather conditions in numerous ways including ever changing intensities and colourations, from a light gold on overcast days, to brilliant gold in full light. The colour caught Damian’s eye: “The gold finish is quite striking and I enjoy how they have played with the geometry” 

Porsche Pavillon at Autostadt Wolfsburg, Wolfsburg, Germany by HENN

Curving lines and exciting bends make the Pavilion a dynamic yet reduced sculpture with its characteristics derived from the Porsche brand image. In the seamless building envelope the racy lines pick up speed, reduce their tempo again and send out additional radii. A matte finished stainless steel cladding forms the flush envelope of this vibrant structure, creating the impression of a homogeneous unity, whilst creating a continuously changing appearance depending on light and weather conditions. The finish of the building amazed the judges. Damian commented: “it is very impressive and totally seamless.” In agreement, James added: “it’s beautiful. It’s the fashion isn’t it? Matte finish cars.” 

Under the large, asymmetrically shaped roof a sheltered external space opens up with seats for several hundred visitors, being optically connected to the surrounding landscape and forming its own acoustic enclosure. The architecture and landscape, interior and exterior, roof and façade are designed as a uniform, flowing continuum, while the exterior of the pavilion designed by WES LandschaftsArchitektur has been integrated into the overall concept of the theme park. Examining all of these elements, Harbinder endorsed: “I like the way that they have had to work inter-disciplinary. Every single millimetre is considered to how it will come together.” 

Igreja Velha Palace, Vermoim - Vila Nova de Famalicão, Portugal by Visioarq - Architects

The late 19th century Igreja Velha Palace, with its baroque and neo-Gothic elements, has grown unevenly in northern Portugal over time. The new volume merges with the constructed and natural landscape because of its parallelepiped design, the many continuities it regards, and the alignments, promoting and reinforcing the pedestrian shaft that runs through the centre of the palace. The shaft terminates at a protruding cantilevered volume, whose special shape seems to elevate the building, just like traditional granaries. The thin fold sets up a line of continuity between the old and the new building, materialising the path travelled by those who have access to the venue.

The design is born from a new metallic outlook of the 21st century granary, which seems to levitate with its thin skin of COR-TEN steel over a stone and glass base, challenging through the original construction process the logic of materials – heavy metal over delicate glass – but preserving the desired chromatic and volumetric harmony. An iron structure sustains the entire set – an innovative, out of sight and constructive solution that enhances the lightness of the set. The use of metal as a structural skeleton and surrounding skin is also innovative as a solution to merge the existing constructed and natural landscape. The delicate skin impressed all three judges. James stated: “very clever use of metal. It looks impossibly thin but it works.” Harbinder added: “It is a very sophisticated use of cor-ten. They have taken very simple cladding material and they have exquisitely detailed so it feels like it is a piece of sculpture that is defying gravity.” Damian supported Harbinder’s comment: “uncompromising use of COR-TEN steel and concrete. It’s architecturally powerful; very strong and effective.” 

Kraaiennest Metro Station, Amsterdam, Netherlands by Maccreanor Lavington

The Bijlmermeer neighbourhood of Amsterdam, was designed as a single project consisting of nearly identical high-rise buildings, set out in a hexagonal grid. It was connected to the centre of Amsterdam by a metro line, on a brutalist concrete structure. As part of the area’s regeneration, the Kraaiennest metro station was enlarged, upgraded and repositioned to align with a new more clearly defined and traditional street layout. 

The metro station has a ground level entrance hall with escalators to reach the platform and track level canopy, both of which are separate structures that sit within the existing concrete track. Both are clad in stainless steel panels. Laser cut decorative fenestration on the lower entrance pavilion allows for daylight to penetrate the hall during the day, and in the evening for the station to act as a lantern, lighting the surrounding public realm, providing a warm and attractive beacon in the streetscape. “The patterned screen is emotionally powerful, it’s lovely with the light”, judged Damian. James thought that: “it’s a great use of metal in architecture because they have taken a lovely detail and just used that one detail throughout.” 

At a distance, the simple geometric forms of the pavilion and canopy are assimilated into the track structure generating a new whole. Close up the finely detailed filigree of the entrance hall enclosure contrasts with the track structure and speaks of publicness. Harbinder picked up on the simplicity of the design: “it’s a very simple idea which has been executed beautifully. The way they have completely decluttered it so that the skin is everything.”

The Ohio University Regional Chilled Water Plant, Columbus, United States by Leers Weinzapfel Associates

A prominent site between campus and city, this important infrastructure facility fits comfortably among its academic neighbours, preserves an important green space, and frames the gateway for a new campus entry. The use of metal materials creates an important bridge between the infrastructure nature of this project and its campus setting. The plant structure is modulated by its composition of two offset volumes: a lower, glazed rectangular volume with semi-transparent views from the interior looking out; and an upper lifted square volume with perforated metal walls of copper-coloured aluminum that provides a cost-effective water cooling tower enclosure. Made of galvanised structural steel, the cantilevered support of the cooling towers at roof level frames a new campus pedestrian street. Galvanised steel stairways, walkway gratings and equipment structural supports provide a safe and efficient rooftop workplace. The plant significantly improves campus central plant energy-efficiency, reliability, and environmental air-quality. 

The architects took the budget into great consideration, leading Damian to say:  “a very impressive effort with a tricky brief. It looks well considered and is nicely detailed.” James identified that the project was: “a clever way of cloaking a difficult beast.” Harbinder admired: “they have tried to do is reveal the inner working of the facility and the program of the building.”

Environment + Natural Resources Building 2, Tucson, United States by richärd+bauer architecture

The university is passionate about the interrelationship between the natural environment and built environment. Using natural wonders like the Grand Canyon as a muse, they created a one-of-a-kind building that blends flexibility, sustainability, and beauty. The materials used in each space equally embody the desert canyon environment. Damian identified: “the vertical ribs are very neat and elegant and tie the inside of the building to the outside.  It’s uniting and helps make the building coherent.”

Its strategic layout welcomes visitors through a slot canyon where they have easy access to meeting and auditorium spaces, as well as nearby offices. With no detail left unattended, the building boasts a flexible, sustainable space that will reflect the university’s aspirations and its surrounding environment. Harbinder established:”the detail that they have used in terms of interfacing the structure is how an artist would have approached its refinment.” James agreed with Harbinder’s comment saying: “what needs to be celebrated is that they have taken simple detail, cost effective detail, which is very important and have created a wonderful piece of architecture. They have used one detail not only externally but both for internal space - the bannisters, solar shading and that is fantastic.”

On top of the six shortlisted schemes, the judges also wanted to select two projects as ‘commended’ as they felt they needed to be highlighted. The two projects entitled were:

The Wind Tower, Lincolnshire, United Kingdom by MSA-Gruff which explores the nature of the extreme environment of the site: the point at which land, sea and air interface in a shifting and ever changing marine landscape. Harbinder commented on this relationship: “to create a space where we are able to interact with the environment, I think it works quite well.” Harbinder achknowledged the inspiration of childhood stating: “it suddenly becomes a meeting point for the community. It reminds me of being a kid, when you have that one tree and you’re like ‘I’ll meet you by the tree’. It’s moments like that which are important to have.” James agreed, suggesting: “kids will love it.” 

Secondly, Waitrose, Chester, United Kingdom by Broadway Malyan, a commercial development located on a key route into Chester City centre. The clients for the project, were committed to making a positive contribution towards the area, providing a sustainable building as part of a wider regeneration masterplan. The bronze metal cladding, coupled with the expressed structural elements, reference the industrial heritage of the site. Damian recognised that the natural colour of weathered bronze complements the surrounding brick, saying: “the cladding fits very well into a strong historic context despite being clearly modern.” James confirmed Damian’s comment: “it looks incredible in its setting. It really does blend in. It’s metal, it’s not brick so they are using it in an innovative way.”

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


Ella Pilkington

WAN Administrator

Key Facts:


Want to submit your project to World Architecture News?

Contact The Team