WAN Future Projects Education Award 2016 Shortlist Announced

Lucy Nordberg
Tuesday 21 Feb 2017

Six progressive and innovative designs reach the shortlist for the second edition of the WAN Future Projects Education Award

An impressive range of designs were assessed by an expert jury panel for the WAN Future Projects Education Award 2016. Founded to celebrate excellence in ‘design only’ projects across seven core sectors, this award encourages vision and progressive thinking, with a remit to champion concepts that push the accepted boundaries of their building typology. Entries demonstrated innovative approaches to uniting the varied administrative and learning elements required in education facilities, while revealing imaginative responses to the demands of location, ranging from mitigating the effects of an extremely hot climate to adapting a former industrial space. 

The esteemed judges, chosen for their expertise in this sector, were: Helle Juul, CEO and Founding Partner of Juul Frost Architects, Jonathan Leah, Principal of Woods Bagot, Keith Papa, Architect Director at Building Design Partnership and Franco Miotto, Partner of OSPA Arquitetura e Urbanismo. The jury studied the entries based on a number of criteria including originality, innovation, form, function, sustainability and context, as well as the potential of the concept to overcome key challenges in the design brief. 

After much discussion, six projects were selected for the shortlist, listed below in no particular order:

Centre for Pedagogical Development in Tamra, Israel by De-iDEA Labs/B.E.A.D

Planned as one of the leading modern centres for pedagogic development, the Centre includes training halls, computer studios, workshops and classrooms, together with staff rooms and administrative offices. The sharp natural terrain of the site’s slope inspired the overall concept, which takes its cue from the idea of tectonic drift creating layers between the various elements and their configurations. The jury appreciated the effective and elegant way in which the resulting design fulfilled its intended function. Helle responded to the interweaving of the different areas within the Centre, stating: “The small diagrams say a lot about the circulation and the density of these spaces that actually could intertwine. It’s beautiful.” Jonathan agreed, noting that the design showed “a great approach on how to handle quite a complex site.” 

The designers extended the surrounding park to the roof of the building, revealing a striking view towards the valley and the hills beyond. An entrance situated parallel to the topographic contour lines allows visitors to experience a natural open courtyard, while a hidden central area is available to be explored as an oasis in the mountain. These aspects allow for the presence of nature indoors. Keith was impressed by this design “in terms of its landscape and how it works through the tectonic shift and down the hill.” 

Halle 6 - Interdisciplinary Centre for Digital Cultures in Nantes, France by LIN Architects Urbanists

Halle 6 is planned as part of an Art and Science Campus situated on a former production site for ship engines. The design utilises a flexible structure to transform an existing building into an innovative and publically accessible space, with challenges including the adaptation of the original steel roof to contemporary building regulations. Jonathan praised the result as “an elegant re-use of an industrial building.” 

The roof and three historical facades will be upgraded with opaque insulation, while the widely glazed east facade forms a welcoming entrance. The interior facades consist of large foldable doors, broadly connecting the lateral spaces with the shared-use central hall. Generous vertical circulations and airy walkways interconnect the various spaces. Keith commented: “I really love the way they have re-purposed the existing hall shape. It’s convincing, quite a simple idea that’s been well done.” 

In contrast to the rough surfaces of the existing building, the immersive room, another key element of the project, appears as an abstract volume, floating in the central void on airy supports. Ship’s hulls gave inspiration to this one-piece steel construction. Furthermore, the historic and still usable crane trolley in the great hall keeps alive the industrial heritage of Halle 6. Franco appreciated these nods to the building’s former function, saying: “The project transcribes the essence of the pre-existence using a contemporary approach of materials and structure. The connection between old and new is seamless.”

Bloomberg Center at Cornell Tech, Roosevelt Island, United States by Morphosis Architects

The first building to be completed on the applied science campus on Roosevelt Island, The Bloomberg Center will be Cornell Tech’s academic headquarters. The project is part of an initiative to establish a new institutional framework to deepen the engagement between academia and the private sector, forming direct relationships between research and the market. To maximise use and opportunities for collaboration, the design challenges the notion of assigned rooms and private faculty offices. Keith commented: “When you think of American universities, they’re usually quite formal in the way that they work, so I quite like the beginnings of the informality in the plan.” The building provides a variety of open-ended spaces organised around a central social galleria accommodating multiple uses and possibilities, encouraging spontaneous study sessions and enhancing the networking mission of the campus. 

Jonathan singled out the sustainable elements of the design, which include an energy canopy supporting a solar panel array to maximise the site’s energy performance and shade the roof surface of the building to support thermal regulation. Striving for a net-zero and LEED Platinum rating, the Bloomberg Center aims to set a new benchmark for New York City building and campus design. Franco deemed this approach to be successful, saying: “The building is composed by a variety of sustainable design strategies without losing the harmony of the composition and the views of the East River.”

Kuwait University Facilities Buildings in Sabah Al-Salem University City, Kuwait by Pace

The jury were unanimous in their appreciation for the size and scope of this University Facilities project, which encompasses nearly three million square feet. Seven buildings will house administrative and ceremonial functions, including a library, cultural centre, mosque, visitor's centre, conference centre, and an administration building with a ‘pearl-like’ convocation hall as the centrepiece. The designers faced a challenge to create a unified architectural language for the disparate buildings while mitigating the effects of the harsh desert climate. Franco said: “The undertaking responds very well to the difficulty of designing so many different buildings harmoniously.” 

Breaking from the tradition of a central quad and surrounding buildings, SOM/Pace created smaller, protected exterior gardens or plaza spaces for each structure in order to create multiple areas where students, faculty staff and visitors can meet. Jonathan commented: “I think that it is a good response to a formal a site plan. There seems to be a richness and adversity in each of the buildings. It seems to be well thought out, well organised and well planned.” 

Shading screens envelop each building to reduce heat, incorporating unique designs by a renowned Kuwaiti artist. Keith responded to this approach, saying: “I think it’s a good example of architects and artists working together, which really engages with the culture.” 

Little Pine Kone in Undersåker, Sweden by Sweco Architects

Undersåker Municipality plan to solve the lack of space in the town’s original school by adding an additional sustainable building, consisting of a nursery, kitchen, dining hall-cum-public space and teachers area. Sweco Architects sought to integrate the building with the surrounding terrain, resulting in an imaginative expression for the structure with a shingle façade calling to mind the scales of a pine cone, while the green roofs blend into the landscape. Inside, the designers aimed for an atmosphere of safety and protection for the children, as well as providing vistas open to the mountain views in order to create an inspiring, instructive and playful environment. Helle observed: “It’s a very humane, down-scaled spatial organisation,” going on to note that it was easy for the children “to organise themselves with the inter-mapped spaces.” Keith agreed, saying: “It just looks like a wonderful place to go to school. It’s beautiful in its landscape.” 

Under the overshadowing roofs, children’s games can continue undisturbed despite the weather. Jonathan said: “It’s all geared to being outside when the weather’s not great. There are some lovely spaces internally.” The design also encompasses internal windows so the staff can maintain a good general view of the children. Keith commended the overall response to the design brief, saying: “It’s very humane and it looks like a brilliant place to drop your kids off and know that they’ll be safe, secure and happy.” 

Circus Conservatory of America in Portland, United States by Höweler + Yoon Architecture 

The new Circus Conservatory building will house America’s first accredited degree program in Circus Arts and contain public performance venues together with recreational facilities, while transforming an undeveloped section of Portland into a vibrant artistic centre. Höweler + Yoon recognised that introducing educational elements into the circus typology challenges the viewing relationships critical to performance. Within this hybrid proposal, where acrobatics, performance and classrooms are equal, the design utilizes the radial viewing strategy of the original circus in order to activate the educational community to engage with the public, the city, the landscape and each other. Helle responded to this welcoming approach to the various users, saying: “I really like how they have come to the location and figured out how to mix, while also emphasising the public/student circulation, and how they can create an intersection within this.” 

Several large acrobatic training halls with transparent ends act as oculi through the circular plan, providing dramatic views across the water of the peninsula. Areas between the training halls are sculpted in a continuous interactive loop, which oscillates between training, group studying, socialising, and private practicing. Jonathan said: “If someone says that they are going to create a circus school, you want it to be something that captures all the fun and imagination of a circus. I like the way that it is directly referencing circuses and there’s hints of it connected to a circus tent.”

The jury also wished to commend Chaingmai Life Architects & Construction for the Assembly & Indoor Sport Hall in Chiang Mai, Thailand. Inspired by the Lotus flower and the surrounding rolling hillside, the Hall is made from bamboo, using the material’s flexibility to create long organic, weaving curves. This flowing design generates the impression that the building has grown naturally out of the earth and is now slightly floating above it, imparting a sense of balanced strength and simultaneous lightness. Franco stated: “The proposal pushes the boundaries of bamboo constructions. The complexity of the structure is counter-posed by the lightness of the canopy.” 

The technical challenge was to translate the high tensile strength of the bamboo across the connections, as most bamboo walls become too thin to maintain structural competence after about six to nine metres. To solve the problem, the team used continuous bamboo bundles to create arched trusses to bridge a span of seventeen metres and reach a height of twelve metres. Keith commented, “I think that what we love about this project is the way that it extends the landscape and creates this structure from the bamboo. It looks like it would be a joy to be in.”

Many thanks to all those involved in the WAN Future Projects Education Award 2016, and congratulations to the six finalists and the commended design within this category. An overall winner from the shortlist will be announced on 14th March 2017.

Lucy Nordberg

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