WAN Future Projects Civic Award 2016 Winner Announced

Nick Myall
Friday 17 Feb 2017

The Mass Extinction Memorial Observatory (MEMO) in Portland, UK by Adjaye Associates has been announced as the winner of the WAN Future Projects Civic Award

It is with great pleasure that we champion Adjaye Associates as the winner of the WAN Future Projects Civic Award 2016 for their Mass Extinction Memorial Observatory (MEMO) project - Congratulations!

The winner was selected from six shortlisted projects which were chosen by our esteemed jury panel: Sarah Williams, Principal at S Williams Architects Ltd, Eva Jiricna, Founder at Eva Jiricna Architects, Róisín Heneghan, Co-founder at Heneghan Peng Architects and Gordon Gill, Founding Partner at Adrian Smith + Gordon Gill Architecture.

The judges felt that the shortlisted projects highlighted the range of possibilities within the Future Projects Civic category, highlighting some fantastic examples of what’s possible in this sector. They were all in agreement that there was one clear winner on the day.

The Mass Extinction Memorial Observatory (MEMO) will be a monument to the world’s extinct species including a biodiversity education centre. A continuous spiral of stone, it will be carved with images of the 860 species assessed as extinct since the dodo. The structure will be an ongoing monument, with more stones added in the future if further species become extinct. 

Sarah began by saying why she felt the project deserved to be the winner, picking up on the unique spiralling structure of the building: “The stone spiralling structure represents the journey taken through the building and is simple and contextual, sitting serenely in the landscape. The form itself has many connotations from stacked stones, fossilised stones and traditional stone monuments set in windswept landscapes. The entrance from below into the spiral, is particularly impressive as the inside of observatory reveals itself. The visitor centre sits well within the landscape and as a part of the hillside.”

The circular form resonates with Portland’s three lighthouses near Portland Bill as well as the remains of the windmills at Perryfields to the south east of Weston. The material palette is predominantly Portland Stone to reinforce a sense of the landscape, echoing the character of part of the cliff with its exposed stone strata. 

The sizes of the blocks and the rhythm of the joints are alternating with an accent on the horizontal joints, while the surface of the stones is rough - like the rock face of a quarry. The development will promote the use of local and recycled material.

Touching on the use of local materials Sarah went on to say: “Using Portland stone, a local material and the collaboration with local craftsmen is a plus point.”

A fitting insertion into the landscape, the project presents an opportunity to revitalise the old Bowers Quarry and to draw attention back to the natural beauty and craftsmanship of Portland. Rather than a building or shelter, MEMO is devised as a journey, exploring the relationship between interior and exterior, landscape and enclosure.

Eva was also clearly impressed and concluded by saying: “An amazing project, an amazing story and a truly amazing visual presentation.”

We’d like to take the opportunity to thank not only the jury, but all those who entered their projects into this years’ WAN Future Projects Civic Award 2016.

Nick Myall

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