The WAN Waterfront Award 2016 continues to celebrate and highlight architecture that embraces and exploits the benefits of sites in proximity to water. The award aims to bring together some of the best designs and also promotes projects that address the major issue of rising sea levels, providing a global platform to showcase inspirational ‘built’ designs spanning over the past five years.
A longlist of 29 projects were assessed by a panel of experts, who considered a number of factors such as innovation, originality, and how well the design addressed the key challenges of the client brief.
This year’s judges’ panel, bringing their expertise to the shortlist decision, were: Bryan Avery MBE, Principal at Avery Associates Architects, Richard Coutts, Co-founder of Baca Architects Ltd, Pablo Lazo, Associate Director of Urban Planning at Arup, Morten Schmidt, Partner and Co-founder of schmidt hammer lassen architects, and David Walker, Design Partner of PWP Landscape Architecture.
The jury studied and discussed this year’s diverse and impressive entries in order to reach a shortlist of six, listed below in no particular order:
OneOcean Port Vell in Barcelona, Spain by SCOB Architecture & Landscape.
This project extended the Marina to fill the demand for a growing number of cruising yachts, involving the construction of two new buildings, and the landscape management of 16,000 m2 of quayside. The challenge was to integrate the new structures and public space in the unique location between the old industrial port and the old town of Barcelona. The result is a vision of order and continuity, with reference to the existing surroundings such as boats, docks and floating quays. Unique elements incorporated into the design include a new line of urban furniture and a lattice to cover the buildings, protecting them against the rigours of the marine environment. This lattice acts as a ‘fifth façade’, and echoes the way fishermen use nets as a tent in summer. The judges thought the project met the challenge to enhance and integrate the waterfront with an elegant and beautiful design. Morten commented: “You know you’re in a transition zone between the urban realm and the ocean. The project is coherent and reaches down into even the smallest detail.” Pablo followed on saying: “This project enriches the whole waterfront experience.”
Rockaway Boardwalks in New York City, United States by WXY Architecture and Urban Design
The new 5.5 mile elevated Rockaway Boardwalk was built in the wake of Hurricane Sandy, which destroyed regional infrastructure, including the iconic Boardwalks that had previously attracted surfers and beachcombers from around the world. A Conceptual Plan established a new planning and urban design framework for the area, seeking to restore the natural habitat while providing new recreational and educational amenities. This boardwalk, comprised of sand-coloured concrete planks cast in wave shapes and speckled with coloured and tumbled glass, is buttressed by seawalls, dunes, and natural plantings. David observed that while it was too early to judge the success of the planting, the methodology was sound, stating: “The Boardwalk takes an innovative approach to rising seas and storm surges, by creating a public and ecological amenity rather than a traditional levee or seawall.” It was evident that the project filled the brief to enhance the area for the public, while protecting and restoring its natural state. Richard noted that this type of project, often seen in other parts of the world, marks a shift in thinking in the USA that should be welcomed.
Leixões Cruise Terminal in Matosinhos, Portugal by Luis Pedro Silva, Arquitecto Lda.
The main building of this new cruise terminal is a sinuous structure echoing the jetty’s curve, with three main exterior arms and a fourth that bends inwards. A helical ramp connects the internal functions over four floors. Constituting a node between the new cruise ship quay, the new marina, and the new street linking to the city, it draws together several elements while retaining a strong identity. Bryan described the design as an ‘exemplar’ in its response to the challenge to heighten both commercial efficiency and urban integration. The jury were also quick to praise the terminal building’s striking appearance, with Richard highlighting the “wonderful sculptural form.” As a working port, the appearance of the neighbouring environment was bleak compared to some of the other submitted projects, and this construction was deemed to considerably enliven its surroundings. The jury discussed the nature of utilitarian structures and restrictions on design, and were heartened by the prospect of an elegant structure to give a pleasurable first impression of a city, rather than the expected pragmatic encounter with passport control.
The Waterfront Promenade at Aker Brygge in Oslo, Norway by LINK Landskap.
‘Stranden’ is the first of a multi-stage redevelopment of the ‘Aker Brygge’ precinct, part of a greater effort to reinvigorate Oslo’s post-industrial waterfront by creating a 12km long publically accessible waterfront promenade. The landscape refurbishment increases contact with the magnificent fjord landscape, while encouraging social interaction and diversity of form along the promenade. David praised the cohesiveness of the design, saying the result was “a successful active, urban waterfront.” Detailing of the granite paving creates a robust and non-directional paving surface, with few accents and no obvious, repeating patterns. LINK Landskap also developed a site-specific concept for street furniture and ‘staying’ to encourage the role of social interaction in the public realm. The jury discussed the success of this approach, where there were clear thresholds between the spaces for movement, and the places to pause and reflect. The project’s overall aesthetic impressed the panel, with Richard saying: “There’s a real beauty there in terms of landscape treatments.” Pablo stated: “It has proximity with water, height defence, ‘naturality’ and visual perception which enrich the whole experience.”
Salling Tower in Aarhus, Denmark by Dorte Mandrup Arkitekter.
This dramatic urban sculpture also acts as a viewing tower, its folded geometric appearance adding a significant focal point to the surrounding harbour. The panoramic platform and white steel sides, combined with the expressive shape and the distinct progression from bottom to top, establishes the Salling Tower as a striking space. The tower contributes to the historic trading port by referencing the maritime environment. Peek holes in the steel promote the feeling of being at sea, while reducing wind loads. At night, LED backlighting illuminates the tower from the inside, recalling the masts of neighbouring cargo ships, and encourages use around the clock. Morten responded to the nature of the tower as an object to be viewed as well as experienced, saying: “The project is interesting as it merges art with architecture, a much needed way forward.” The jury were also taken with its direct and simple aesthetic, which embraces a deftness of touch and brings a purely enjoyable element to the waterfront. Richard observed: “We are all laughing and smiling, and this project induced some light.”
East River Waterfront in New York, United States by SHoP Architects
The design of the park aims to transform an underutilized and poorly connected waterfront into vital open-air recreation environment through a series of unique reinventions at the city’s edge. Unapologetically urban, the park forgoes picturesque traditions and embraces the site’s industrial heritage, embodying the history of New York as a working waterfront. New park territories are created from previously abandoned infrastructure, turning an elevated highway into a roof for outdoor activities, redefining the street edge to reclaim public space, reconstructing a collapsed outfall to create a tidal eco-park, and transforming a parking lot with planted areas and a faceted vertical vine wall to serve as a billboard and add much-needed vegetation. Morten praised the success of this strategy, stating: “The East River Waterfront Project goes into line of other projects showing us how spaces we never imagined usable can now invigorate our cities.” The jury appreciated the intelligent yet understated approach, with Bryan commenting: “It’s not shouting, it’s quietly serving its purpose. It is a most beautiful design.”
Thank you to all involved in the WAN Waterfront 2016 Award and congratulations to the six finalists of this category. From the shortlist, an overall winner will be announced on 1st November 2016.
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