The WAN Civic Buildings Award 2016 recognises and celebrates the finest in public sector architecture. With a variety of high calibre entries from across the globe, this year’s competition did not disappoint. Heading steadily into its eighth year, the WAN Civic Buildings Award not only rewards firms for their architectural and sustainability credentials, but also how projects engage with their local area and integrate within the community.
A longlist of 28 projects were assessed by a panel of experts. The judges used their experience within the sector and considered a number of factors including originality, innovation, form, function sustainability and context to reach their shortlist.
This year’s esteemed judging panel included: Elad Eisenstein, Director Urban Design of Mecanoo architecten, Nicholas Garrison, Partner of FXFOWLE, Patricia Ann Lady Hopkins, Co-founding Partner of Hopkins, Tim Sahuri, Principal of SAHURI + partners architecture inc, Peter Murray, Chairman of New London Architecture and David Naessens, Co-director of Carr Cotter Naessens Architects.
The jury were all impressed with the high calibre of entries and after much deliberation, chose the shortlisted six projects, listed below in no particular order:
Salbura Civic Centre, Vitoria-Gasteiz, Spain by IDOM
The Salburua Civic Centre is located in the Basque City of Vitoria-Gasteiz, in Northern Spain and is a building that combines sporting, cultural and administrative uses to service the neighbourhood of Salburua.
With a limited budget one of the main objectives of the client was to build a centre as a lighthouse for the community. The intention was to attract people inside, and in turn to spread its spirit and activities to the outside community.
The Civic Centre’s height is limited to 14 metres, but it is surrounded by six-story buildings. Thus, in the design process there was no distinction between the façade and roof, which eventually led to giving the building character and visibility in the community. Peter paid compliments on this design: “It’s a nice building and it’s finely detailed. I don’t know much about current building costs but it seems amazingly cheap when you look at the quality that they have managed to get out of it.” David agreed with Peter stating: “I think it’s quite a rigorous and serious building, it’s restrained and not ‘showey-offey’. Everything seems to be well worked out, the sections in particular, with this overlay of different sized spaces, spaces below the ground and spaces above the ground.”
Len Lye Centre, New Plymouth, New Zealand by Pattersons Associates
Referred to as a ‘Journey Through Light’, the Len Lye Centre in New Plymouth, New Zealand is a contemporary art centre situated in the countries oil and gas producing province. The design is influenced by the philosophy of Len Lye who was one of New Zealand’s most notable artists primarily known for his experimental films and kinetic sculpture. Led by a growing interest locally and internationally in his work, the centre was designed adjoining the existing town’s art gallery – a converted theatre. The art facility houses Lye’s archive, display galleries, an education centre and a 62-seat cinema.
The centres shimmering, reflective colonnade façade is manufactured locally using stainless steel and links both Lye’s innovations in kinetics and light as well as the region’s industrial innovation. Visitors to the Len Lye Building experience a kinetic journey through light as they move around and through the building. Patricia deemed it appropriate that the stainless steel was manufactured locally and then followed on to say: “I enjoy the busy-ness and panache of this project. I think that it looks pretty great. I quite enjoy the inside/outside dichotomy, it’s quite interesting, it’s an attractor.” Nicholas also appreciated the design declaring: “This project is compelling and wondrous in ways that so many high-design "object-buildings" are not. It is mesmerising - and somehow irresistible. You want to know more, to get closer and figure it out. It blurs all the lines between art and architecture. Marvellous.”
The Broad, Los Angeles, United States, by Diller Scofidio Renfro in collaboration with Gensler
The Broad in L.A. merges a philosophical and functional response to the core missions of the Broad Art Foundation: maximum visibility of their contemporary art collection and optimal transparency of their archives and lending repository. The design, dubbed “the veil and the vault,” presents a new and unique conceptual shift in archive and exhibition design by inverting conventional notions of museum planning and programming.
The Broad plays a key component in the downtown revitalisation plan for Los Angeles, within which Grand Avenue has emerged as a cultural district. Designed in contrast to its to architectural leadership of its context, the site is only 200 feet wide by 200 feet deep and limited to a 70 foot zoning envelope, which dictated the building’s maximum footprint and rectilinear form. The judges were in consensus on both the clarity of function and originality of this project. Tim went on to comment on its simplicity: “The planning is very simple, functional and straightforward, The Broad is inspiring and quite beautiful architecture. The quality and control of light is intriguing and innovative.” Discussing functionality, Elad shared his views with the jury: “It brings quite cleverly, a rather quite complex set of problems inside and puts it very nicely in the back-of-house in a rather normal place in a building, but organises it very elegantly and in a very simple shape.”
The Waterfront Pavilion, Sydney, Australia by fjmt studio
Anchored to the south wharf of Sydney’s Darling Harbour, The Waterfront Pavilion at the Australian National Museum was built to mark the centenary of World War I and commemorate 100 years of service by the Royal Australian Navy. The purpose of this museum pavilion building is to create a transition experience for visitors from the waterfront dock onto the two naval vessels HMAS Vampire and HMAS Onslow.
On a tight budget and built on a narrow existing wharf structure, the design seeks to bring the narratives of war to life and significantly enliven the visitors relationship with the vessels, waterfront and broader museum precinct. The articulated facade of the pavilion compliments the scale, form, colour of the vessels and the broader marine environment.
The majority of jurors were impressed with the scheme and its suitability to the surrounding area. Patricia concurred on the room’s thoughts stating: “I think it’s rather great and it’s suitable. It’s very interesting. I think that it is a really nice, appropriate response to the problem and I like it’s sort of tectonically expressed, it’s very successful. It’s smaller than other entries viewed, but I think it’s great.” Peter added: “It’s a very nice interpretation of a naval iconography on a very tight little site, I think that works. It has a suitable narrative to it and it feels right, sort of naval and slightly war like.”
PUBLIC LIBRARY – RONDA (MALAGA), Malaga, Spain by MMIT ARQUITECTOS
The Public Library Ronda located in Malaga, Spain was constructed on a reduced budget and according to the parameters set as winner of a tender offer in 2012 for a Bus Station and Municipal Library. The municipal library is the first phase of this development.
All the visual recognition features are created by torn visuals from the VIAL DE RONDA or from the potential main walk linked to the rail way. The structure allows for a visual game with two different scales. In the distance, the foreshortened perspective brings the concept of a solid and blind group, allowing to disseminate at a short distance, appreciating the transparency between the ribs. The element of the south façade has been drilled by the graffiti of the Vicente Espinel poems, a local writer. David nodded to its playfulness but also complimented its rigour stating: “I think that it’s very consistent. It’s a very serious building that’s come from consideration of structure and light in quite a traditional way. You might look at this and think it’s all to do with outside effects, but that sort of rhythm and rigour seems to help inside to make spaces that are broken up into bays. This idea of railed graffiti outside and that it happens again at the stairs on the smaller scale, it shows it’s something that has been really carefully worked out and in detail.” Tim agreed with David’s views stating simply: “It’s striking in its powerful architectural statement of form working very rigorously with function.”
Bibliotheque du Boise, Montreal, Canada by Lemay
Located in Montreal, the idea behind the library's design was to create new connections and experiences that would reinforce its value to the community and contribute to the creation of a new and attractive centre for cultural activities. In this project, the architecture and landscape blend and compliment one another. The architecture changes shape, unfolds, spreads out and rises up, reducing the boundaries between the built space and the site. This modern building connects the city with the surrounding landscape, and serves as a point of connection that allows users to explore its site.
Discussing the connection between Bibliotheque du Boise within its surrounding context, Nicholas expressed: “Successfully blurring landscape and building, the design consistently and elegantly manages to be both "figure and ground", object and garden. Its forms and materials bring outside-in, and they are equally compelling in the dead of winter as they are in the full of summer. It is a refreshing commentary on the typological suburban, community library.” Nicholas also felt that the LEED Platinum achievement was also noteworthy.
Elad reflected on the project and how it was reminiscent of a university library, saying: “I mean all of those libraries are coming back to cities. It’s trying to be a place of landscape, very subtle, very close to the ground, all very flat. It’s almost like an old fashioned library. Well done.”
We would like to say a big thank you to all those who entered the WAN Civic Buildings Award and to our judges, for their wealth of experience and support in this year’s award. The winner will be announced on September 6.