WAN Future Projects Commercial Award 2016 Shortlist Announced

Tuesday 21 Feb 2017

Six ambitious projects selected for the Future Projects Commercial Award shortlist

Now in its second year, the WAN Future Projects Commercial Award 2016 was founded to celebrate excellence in ‘design only’ projects across seven core sectors, welcoming innovative entries that demonstrate vision and progressive thinking. The concepts submitted to the commercial category were ambitious in scale and scope, showcasing dramatic structures that will not only effectively host economic activity, but also promise to become iconic structures for their surrounding locations.

The judging panel faced the difficult task of selecting a shortlist from a longlist of 25 entries. This year’s jury, chosen for their expertise in this category, were: Jason Balls, Design Director at EPR Architects, John Mcrae, Director and Co-Owner of Orms, and Julian Anderson, Studio Director at Bates Smart. Designs were assessed on factors including originality and context, and then considered in relation to how successfully they met the client brief and pushed the accepted boundaries for commercial building typology.

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

Platinan in Gothenburg, Sweden by Erik Giudice Architects 

Part of an extensive transformation of central Gothenburg, Sweden’s second largest city, Platinan will include offices, a hotel, shops and cultural activities, all of which seek to remain flexible and adaptable for future alterations. The building’s design connects to the industrial past of the site by using a large span structural grid and unified floor heights, providing interior flexibility. John appreciated this approach, saying: “We are seeing more and more that inherent flexibility in a new build is extremely important.”

The mixed use development is intended to become an inclusive, green and dynamic part of the extended city core, and will be certified LEED Platinum. Open terraces and Winter gardens offer space for extensive greenery on the building’s exterior perimeters and create an ecological buffer zone that can be used by the tenants for multiple activities. Julian commented: “The range of outdoor spaces that are created, and the separation of blocks from each other, allow for natural light and access to views.” Jason also praised the design’s achievement in creating an attractive environment and outlook for the building’s occupants, saying: “I think the greening of the actual building is very commendable. It has created some beautiful spaces from what could be a very big block, it does so very successfully.” 

Highgate Shoreditch Hotel in London, United Kingdom by Gensler

Highgate Shoreditch Hotel is a 319,000 sq ft multi-purpose scheme located in the heart of Shoreditch, an area of dynamic social, physical and economic change. Positioned on a site at the southern point of the ‘Shoreditch Triangle’, the development will become a key addition to East London’s creative community and tech media economy. The design consists of commercial office space, shared amenities, food and beverage outlets, events space and a 200 key hotel. Jason commented: “I think it’s a really interesting new typology for London - a proper mixed-use development which can hang together on its own.” 

As well as responding to the area’s recent growth, sensitivity to Shoreditch’s unique historic charm has been fundamental to Gensler’s approach.  The base, called ‘The Market’, is accessible to pedestrians while the mid-terrace level, called ‘The Shed’ offers gathering space for lectures, presentations and other amenities. Finally, the top box named ‘The Sky Lounge’ offers a more intimate and exclusive space where visitors can enjoy views of London. Julian said: “This project is a highly contextual response that has considered the massing of nearby adjacent buildings. It has also considered an approach to materiality which is complimentary to the context. Then the tower form itself is broken up. I think it’s a well-mannered, sophisticated response; if this project was realised, it would be a popular hotel.”

Hanking Center Tower in Shenzhen, China by Morphosis Architects

Currently under construction, Hanking Center Tower will provide Shenzhen’s growing body of global professionals with flexible office space. The tower’s podium will contain high-end retail and dining areas, while the grand plaza creates a new neighbourhood landmark. Julian commented: “I think the atrium space on the ground level is quite audacious, exciting, compelling and almost filmic.” John also appreciated the design’s dramatic impact, stating: “The central space is very theatrical. It will be iconic.”

The form of the tower is defined by its pioneering steel structural system, which offsets primary movement and service cores to the exterior of the floorplate, minimizing the structural footprint while maximizing open space. A series of sky bridges and diagonal mega-braces rigidly link the offset core to the main tower. Glazed lobbies and skygardens every fifteen floors create a communal hub for use by all tenants. Freed from the interior of the building, circulation and amenity areas gain natural light and exterior views over the city to transform the conventional public space into a vibrant area. Julian praised this approach as “commendable; allowing you to connect at every level with views of the outside world and the rest of the city.” Jason recognised the design’s overall challenge to office typography, and went to say: “I’m very glad to see it’s going ahead and being realised.”

Arts Production & Innovation Centre in Mianzhu, China by Urbanlogic Ltd 

The client - a successful manufacturer of glass products - asked the architects to find an appropriate design response for transforming his factory facilities into a one-stop arts production and innovation centre. Requirements included glass art production facilities, an innovation and auction hall, a small museum, and a boutique hotel for VIP clients. Inspired by the flexibility and strong yet neutral character of industrial buildings, the design team chose a warehouse typology to tie together all four components. John stated: “Whether you are coming to visit, or use the research centres, it has all been thought through and become one place.” By extruding the section of a typical 3-nave warehouse across the length of the site, a continuous, undulating roofscape is formed that stretches across the functional areas. Jason said, “I like the roof forms and they make some fantastic spaces.” 

Inspired by traditional Chinese architecture, courtyards carved from the building’s mass have an individual character and serve different purposes. The largest courtyard, the oval “central plaza”, is a garden surrounding a central lawn, which will be used for open-air shows and screenings, and to host events. The courtyards are traversed in a sequence from public to private, reflecting the principle of ancient Chinese courtyard houses and imperial architecture. Julian considered that this thoughtful design incorporated: “a range of different scales and moments that would make it a very interesting place to visit.”

Almono Mill 19 in Pittsburgh, Unites States by MSR Architects/TEN X TEN

Situated along the Monongahela River, just south of downtown Pittsburgh, the Almono Mill is the first part of a project planned to set a new standard for post-industrial urban riverfront development. The quarter-mile long Mill 19 contains traces of its industrial heritage that continue to resonate with neighbouring residents. Nested within the armature of the former steel mill, three new autonomous buildings will include offices, space for light manufacturing, research and development. John said: “I think this project is a great idea which is hugely transformative.” He went on to praise the design as “a fantastic catalyst for regeneration and a brilliant use of existing structures.” 

The Mill 19 design lays the groundwork for a new type of regional economic hub that celebrates Pittsburgh’s tough industrial legacy, instigates growth and renewal, and reconnects the community to one of the region’s most beautiful assets – the Monongahela River. The transformation of the site celebrates the history of labour and supports future industries in the shadows of trusses and the open air of a new public plaza, storm water channel, and industrial ruin garden. Jason commented: “The industrial context is there, and you can make fantastic spaces out of it. I think they have done that and it’s brilliant. They have done exceptionally well with an existing building.”

Destination Spa & Resort at the Brooq Peninsula, Qatar by Oppenheim Architecture

In an ethereal landscape at the edge of desert and sea, this new resort and spa is designed with simplicity and clarity in mind, creating a coherent composition without obvious spectacle. However, despite this move towards elegance rather than showmanship, the judges recognised the ambition inherent in the concept. Jason said: “We all have to take our hats off to the ambition of this scheme, relating to the geological aspects of the Qatar landscape.” 

The topographic transition from the desert dunescapes to the beach creates a transition from sand to sea, and the discrete carvings into the earth provide several opportunities for drama and surprise. Julian commented: “I think the imagery is a beautiful contrast of a man-made structure colliding with the natural world, It creates a real level of interest.” 

An observatory within the spa recalls ancient journeys, ancient navigation, Arabic discoveries in mathematics and astronomy and the new worlds that this opened. The landscape dissolves to a scattering of the luxurious units, which are interspersed with verdant gardens. Jason said: “Looking at some of the potential spaces they are making, it could be absolutely spectacular. I would love to see it starting on a slightly smaller scale because it’s a huge undertaking, but I think it could be fantastic.” John agreed, saying: “I think it’s hugely seductive…It would be a great scheme to see in reality.”

WAN AWARDS would like to thank the jury and congratulate all six finalists in the WAN Future Projects Commercial Award 2016. The final winner of this category will be announced on 14th March 2017.

Lucy Nordberg

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