Moving into its third year the WAN Concrete in Architecture Award 2016 attracted many fantastic projects from around the world. This specialist category celebrates bold, daring designs that explore the sculptural and expressive possibilities of this highly versatile material across all building types, whether a private residence or public building.
The 25 longlisted projects were recently reviewed by a jury panel of experts who used their experience in the sector to assess each project on a number of factors including; Originality, Innovation, Form, Function, Sustainability and Context. The jury also considered how the projects addressed any key challenges within the client brief and embraced concrete in the finished building.
This year’s jury panel were: Chiaki Arai, Founder of Chiaki Arai Urban & Architecture Design, Jason Parker, Partner at Make Architects, Elaine Toogood, Senior Architect at The Concrete Centre and Simon Anson, Architect and Associate at Arup.
The four jury members selected a shortlist of six projects which are as follows, in no particular order:
Buenos Aires Ciudad Casa de Gobierno in Argentina by Foster + Partners.
Ciudad Casa de Gobierno is a new city hall for Buenos Aires, housing offices for the Mayor and 1,500 employees. Spanning an entire city block in Parque Patricios, the new building contributes to the revitalisation of the neighbourhood and combines an environmentally efficient design with an innovative, highly flexible internal arrangement of terraced office floors. The architecture echoes the building’s park-side setting, with landscaped courtyards and shaded walkways, and uses materials that draw on the site’s industrial past to reinforce the unique character of the area.
The judges were impressed with the building’s flowing roof canopy, which is supported by pillars and extends in a deep overhang to shade the entrance plaza and facades. Chiaki went on to elaborate: “Although made by heavy concrete, on a large space which tend to be closed space easily provides various effects on the architecture, for example, natural light control.”
Jason credited the building’s effect in the regeneration of a stagnated neighbourhood of the city, commenting: “It is beautiful. The brief is engaging with the public realm, a fantastic project.”
CKK "Jordanki" in Poland by Menis Arquitectos, SLP.
The CKK “JORDANKI” is set on a green ring that surrounds the centre of this Polish town, bordering the city’s new development. The initial conception as per the client’s brief, exclusively focused on a concert hall but later turned out to be a space housing different kinds of music. The building’s interior acts like a fluid that brings together its many different co-existing elements and purposes, slowly combining and playing off each other. “Picado”, a research and construction innovative technique firstly used by Menis at the Magma Art & Congress (Tenerife, 2005), consists of mixing concrete with other materials, breaking it afterwards and is used in the entire building. Certified by Spanish and Polish Building Research Institutes (ITB) respectively, it achieves a rough expression and allows excellent acoustics results as well.
The judges were intrigued with the interior of the building, especially the use of the ‘Piccado’ technique, with Simon saying: “I think it’s awesome and very unique, a very ambitious project.” Elaine echoed the views of the panel, adding: “I think this is extraordinary, quite inspiring.”
Open-sided shelter in Israel by Ron Shenkin Studio.
Completed in 2015, this Open-Sided shelter functions as a place of convergence of mourners and for the reading of eulogies prior to and during the burial. Its essential nature, is that of a pavilion or open-sided shelter and is located next to the cemetery. The monument consists of an exposed concrete slab symbolizing the expansion of construction. The slab is stabilised by tree-shaped metal pillars denoting the trees that were cut down. One oak tree remains within the structure. The ceiling above the tree was left open to allow for the presence of the tree to create a dialogue between the living tree and the metal symbols.
Chiaki was impressed with the sensitivity of the project, commenting: “The small religious space makes us, even having different beliefs, feel something spiritual. The roof on the tree-like-structures and the slit on the faced provide comfort within a tense atmosphere.” Elaine, mentioned how she was keen to visit the project, adding: “This project is gentle and poetic, the attention to detail is rather lovely.”
Seashore Library in China by Vector Architects.
About three hours drive from Beijing, the Seashore library is located inside a vacation compound along Bohai Bay. The vacation compound aims to create a quality-living area closer to nature. There are a series of cultural and leisure facilities within the compound, and Seashore Library is one of them. The design key point is focused on exploring the co-existing relationship of the space boundary, the movement of human body, the shifting light ambience, the air ventilating through and the ocean view. The library faces the ocean to its east. During seasons of spring, summer and fall, it not only serves the community residents at west, but opens to the public as well.
There was very little debate over this project, with the entire jury panel in agreement. Jason was the first to comment on the project’s relationship between space and the ocean: “I really like this project, I like the way it relates to its context, I love the aim and aspiration in terms of quality of life and the response to the city conditions.” Simon also expressed his views, adding: “I think it’s a nice piece of work, It feels timeless.”
Salas de lectura in Mexico by Fernanda Canales.
This basic independent module is a cube made of concrete, and can house a reading area and a place of gathering. It is designed to be built by community members in almost any residual space of a low cost housing project that in Mexico always lack collective services and cultural facilities. Some are equipped with bathrooms, computer facilities, and exterior furnishings, depending on the needs of each community. The design originated out of the concept of transparency, allowing two main contributions: safe public space, with views onto the surroundings, but also a space sheltered from the weather and always visible from the exterior.
The simplicity of the project captivated the judges, with Simon commenting: “What a great project, fantastic response to the brief.” 15 prototypes have been built during the last year in 15 states in Mexico, changing the lives of local communities. Elaine concluded by highlighting some of the projects qualities: “It’s clever; it’s beautifully proportioned, in-expensive and well-designed.”
R torso C in Japan by Atelier Tekuto.
Located in the center of Tokyo, R torso C rests on a site area of a mere 66 square meters. The initial request of the client was to see “exposed concrete inside and out, a distinctive piece of architecture which is also environmentally conscious.” The architects decided to use SHIRASU, the deposit of pyroclastic flow of volcanic ash found in Kagoshima Prefecture, located in the southern part of Japanese Islands. Environmentally friendly SHIRASU concrete replaces over 60% of sand with SHIRASU, and is anticipated to give concrete humidity control and deodorizing effects.
The corners of the house were "pruned" away to create windows with views of the sky and street from the narrow urban plot. Simon was impressed with the spaciousness created within the design commenting: “It’s a beautiful house; it has a lot of character to it, an exploration of light and volume.” Jason agreed and established the positive comments by saying: “I like the way it sits on site in relation to its surroundings and as a volume and bit of sculpture it’s really quite interesting. The concrete is everything in the way it envelops the spaces.”
Congratulations to all those shortlisted and a big thank you to all those who entered into the WAN Concrete in Architecture Award 2016. The winner, chosen from the six shortlisted projects will be announced both online and at UK Construction Week on 19, October.