WAN Colour in Architecture 2016 Shortlist Announced

Lucy Nordberg
20 Feb 2017

Six inspiring and evocative designs shortlisted for the WAN Colour in Architecture Award

The WAN Colour in Architecture Award 2016 celebrates projects that harness colour to dramatically transform a building or enhance the experience for its users and community. The submitted entries successfully met the award’s challenge to utilise colour as a means to create a more dynamic and communicative built environment. 

The longlist of 29 impressive designs was assessed by a judging panel, chosen for their extensive expertise in this category. This year’s jury were: Karen Haller, Applied Colour Psychology Consultant at Karen Haller Colour & Design, Morag Morrison, Partner at HawkinsBrown, Per Nimer, Design Manager at Akzonobel and Zlatko Slijepcevic, Director of EPR Architects. The judges studied the projects based on factors such as originality, innovation, form, function, sustainability and context, before considering how each design met the client brief and used colour in an innovative way to enhance the building. 

After much discussion, the jury chose a shortlist of six, listed below in no particular order:

Bendigo Library Refurbishment in Bendigo, Australia by MGS Architects

The renamed New Generation Bendigo Library is a careful integration of former library and archive services into a flexible and inclusive place for the local community. The diverse range of spaces includes the playful children's library and 'cubby house', cafe, gallery areas and upgraded research facilities. Zlatko appreciated the design’s thoughtful improvements, saying: “It’s a modest intervention to re-invent an existing building in quite a calm way.” A new bamboo and coloured Perspex 'lantern' over a linear walkway delivers a valuable light source and a sense of connection to the new community areas. Internal use of timbers, coloured panels, changing ceiling heights and voids creates a vibrant and engaging space.

Per commented on the careful use of colour, saying: “Adding colour added something to this building. It’s not over-the-top, its subtle.” Karen also thought this approach suited the library’s function, stating: “Keeping it in this natural colour palette is far more inviting and far more relaxing for people to want to come in. It used to be like a grey box with a stack of books, now you feel more that you’re in a big green tree house.” Morag praised the design’s success in lifting the existing material palette, and Karen agreed, stating: “It’s more inviting and not depressing, because books should be full of life.” 

Ivanhoe Grammar Senior Years & Science in Melbourne, Australia by McBride Charles Ryan 

Ivanhoe Grammar School is a co-educational facility first established in 1920. This new building for the site includes a variety of general learning areas, spaces for the senior year teachers and a science centre. The idea of kaleidoscopes influenced the design, where a view inside reveals seemingly infinite combinations of colour and pattern. This concept combined with the idea of an “egg”, which opens to reveal a hidden inner core, resulted in a design distinguishing between the outer world (civic and circular) and the inner world (complex and colourful). The muted outer area of the building gives way at times to reveal the bright spaces within. Per responded immediately to this striking aspect of the building, commenting: “I love that this has no colour and then it just opens up.” He went on to observe how skilfully colour was used as a core principal for the project, saying: “It’s really been an integral part of the decision and the design.” Zlatko agreed, stating: “It does relate to the context. It has clarity and it’s a bit fun inside, but it’s also serious from the outside.”

Key characteristics of the learning spaces include transparency, flexibility, and connection to the outside environment. The angular geometry of these interior learning spaces contrasts with the pure geometry of the circular plan. Morag stated: “The colour enhances the geometry of the architecture and strengthens it.” 

San Miguel Square Refurbishment in Talavera de la Reina, Spain by OOIIO Architecture

This refurbishment revitalises the degraded San Miguel Square through the use of traditional local pottery. Normally used to create objects, the pottery is now applied on an urban scale, creating intriguing opportunities for the use of colour so important in this medium. A great wall decorated with Talavera tiles forms the Square’s focal point, serving to enhance an existing medieval tower previously overshadowed by the surrounding grey buildings. The project is a unique combination of tradition and modernity, colour and public space. 

Zlatko commented: “It has improved the public realm, which is very important, and even the new intervention is interesting in a way that’s quite a surprise.” Karen agreed, and observed that the artwork as prime focal point made the extension less obvious as an add-on to the existing buildings. The ceramic mosaic’s tiles were drawn by hand, in the same colours originally used by Renaissance craftsman. Zlatko said: “Using the traditional skills, it’s almost bringing arts and crafts back into architecture.” He went on to appreciate the care taken to include work from the local pottery, over 500 years old, and the designer’s attention to detail in finding the perfect vivid yellow and blue for the mural. Praising the overall impact of the design, he said: “This was outside of the box. I haven’t seen anything like this.”

Spectrum in Box Hill, Australia by Kavellaris Urban Design 

Colour is an integral part of this design, as indicated by its name. The Spectrum Apartments are expressed as strips of building volume which geometrically alternate over the floor plates to create a series of continuous articulated and dynamic façades. The terminations of the “Strips” are indicated by a spectrum of brightly coloured boxes, adding a vibrant interface to the public realm. Karen said: “I think that the colour really enhances the architecture. If there was no colour in that façade, it would be far less of a building. It’s playful and its fun.” Per also enjoyed the expressiveness of the resulting design, saying, “When you look at how that façade is playful in shape, the playfulness in colour works with it, not against it.”

The entire proposal is clad in black metal to contrast with the brightly coloured facades. This juxtaposition of light and dark further highlights the “spectrum”, where the colours visually differentiate individual ownership. Zlatko commented: “I think that it works on the physical and emotional side. You can identify yourself within the space - and if you could choose the colour, that would be great.” Per praised the design’s clear delineation between the back and front of the structure. Zlatko agreed, with both judges appreciating how well the colour related to context throughout the building.

André Malraux’s Group of Schools in Montpellier, France by Dominique Coulon et associés

This school unit is part of Montpellier’s dynamic development, aiming to connect the city with the sea. Set on a small triangular plot of land, the location is in keeping with the urban policy for densifying a new residential area. The design makes a bold statement with the use of colour, as the pink and the black of the cantilevered volume divides the monolithic structure visually into two parts. On the underside, the system appears to reverse itself, resulting in a checkerboard in three dimensions. The nursery and primary school are conceived as autonomous elements which appear to slide over each other, and each section is expressed in a different colour or material. The pinks, blacks and whites contrast strongly with the blue skies prevalent in this region of the South of France. 

Karen described the striking use of colour as “perhaps a bit avant-garde”, and Morag agreed, commenting: “To do a pink building takes some guts, it’s very brave. Culturally Montpellier is a perfume area, and it’s a feminine colour, it helps to soften the building. It could have been a predominately very masculine building if it was different colours.” Zlatko said: “I agree with that. There is architecture in this and, as you say, it’s brave to use it. It’s quite a sophisticated pink.”

Kindergarten Campus, The International School of Choueifat in Ajman, United Arab Emirates by ATI Consulting Architects & Engineers

The International School of Choueifat Ajman reflects the client’s requirement for a modern, state-of-the-art school facility that portrays their educational philosophy. The central design principle originates from the child’s needs and the imaginative perception of space and surroundings, with colour as a key consideration. Karen praised the designer’s success in using colour as a means to elicit positive behaviours from the pupils, going on to say: “This colour palette suits the energy and communicates very well to young children. It’ll keep them engaged, awake and alert. If you see yellow or orange for way-finding, you know you’re going into a classroom to do a playful activity, you’re already exciting the children before they’ve arrived.”

Colour usage smoothly connects the outside of the building to the interior spaces, creating a variety of cheerful experiences to engage with the children’s imagination. The scheme is based on colours ranging from orange and yellow tones for lower kindergarten grades, to blue and green tones for higher grades. Colour is also used practically in wayfinding for three- and four-year-old students, who locate their classrooms by following coloured stripes on the floor. Per said: “I think the colour use is very intentional and relevant.” Karen agreed, and both judges noted that this design exemplifies an accurate application of colour for a specific purpose.

WAN AWARDS would like to thank the jury and congratulate all six finalists in the WAN Colour in Architecture Award 2016. The final winner of this category will be announced on 28th February 2017.

Lucy Nordberg

Business Information Specialist

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