WAN Small Spaces Award 2016 Shortlist Announced

27 Feb 2017

12 outstanding projects showcasing the best in permanent and temporary small space design

The WAN Small Spaces Award 2016 is a specialist category that celebrates small scale architecture. Split into two categories – Permanent and Temporary – each of these categories champions a shortlist and a winner. This award recognises the most inspirational designs that deliver novel and aesthetically ambitious ways of maximising space within a minimal footprint. 

There were 30 permanent and 19 temporary longlisted projects that were recently reviewed by our panel of experts. Using their experience the judges assessed the designs on a number of factors to reach their shortlist which were; Originality, innovation, form, function, sustainability and context. The designs were also then considered for how they had addressed the key elements of the client brief and if the scheme had pushed the boundaries for this project type.

Featured on this year’s respected jury panel was: Jon Leach, Director at AECOM, Marta Domènech, Architect and Lecturer at Map13 Architects and Adam Tither, Director at EPR Architects.

The project results for the permanent and temporary sub-categories are listed below in no particular order.  


The Magoda Project in Tanzania by Ingvartsen Architects

The Magoda Project is a series of eight prototype homes constructed in Magoda, a rural village in the Tanga region of Tanzania. The project explores design elements of traditional Asian and African homes to generate a variety of new and improved housing designs to minimise diseases in rural Africa. Marta expressed why she felt this was a deserving project to be shortlisted: “It is a very interesting construction able to improve people´s living conditions in a simple, economic and efficient way.” Adam also highly impressed by this design said:” It’s got a conscience and a moral driver to it, which is absolutely to be applauded.” 

The eight houses integrate Asian architectural features (to optimise airflow) with traditional African building methods familiar in the local area. Alongside collaboration with local engineers, labourers, doctors and sociologists, the final designs were materialised through precise research and observations of the local climate, to maximise indoor comfort. Jon also admired this project saying: “It achieves something quite worthy in a very unique way. There’s nothing kind of naïve, it’s purely practical and it’s not trying to be something that it doesn’t need to be.”

East Point Park Bird Sanctuary Pavilions in Canada by PLANT Architect Inc.

The new pavilions at East Point Park Bird Sanctuary use architecture as a means of framing one of Toronto’s most beautiful parks, while enhancing the pleasures of birding for visitors of all ages and levels of experience. 

Folded into angular shapes evocative of flight, sheets of waterjet-cut weathering steel form the pavilions for this wooded park on the Scarborough Bluffs, high above Lake Ontario. Appreciating the design, Jon said: “I do like this design. I can see what they’re doing here, it reflects the birds in many ways using the shape and folds. This is lovely and done in a way that it’s not too literal.”

The materials palette, which also includes precast and cast-in-place concrete and galvanised grating, was chosen for durability and minimal environmental impact. Adam was impressed with the scheme in regards to its context: “It works in terms of the rugged weather and surroundings, it’s really beautiful. I can see people enjoying it.”

Wind and Rain Bridge in China by The University of Hong Kong / Superposition

Situated on the outskirts of Peitian Village in the Fujian Province, China this beautiful project was designed to be constructed without the use of mechanical fasteners. The Wind and Rain Bridge is a reciprocal interlocking timber structure which draws on the long tradition of wooden buildings native to the region. Each of the bridges’ 265 elements is unique and integral, assembled under the supervision of traditional carpenters, who number some of the few remaining exponents of their craft. Recognising the detail in these methods Jon shared: “It’s impressive as there’s no mechanical fixings at all anywhere, it’s just all traditional timber work which is actually really quite difficult to achieve. “

The bridge creates a community space, located in the heart of the village’s fertile farmland, where local people can socialize and interact. Marta applauded this space by saying: “A bridge converted into space. From the traditional system to the contemporary space.”

Office of the Future in United Arab Emirates by Killa Architectural Design

Situated within the precincts of Emirates Towers in Dubai, The Office of the Future is the world’s first fully functional and permanently occupied 3D printed building. Currently, the building acts as the temporary home for the Dubai Future Foundation as well as an exhibition space and incubator for future emerging technologies in the emirate. Jon acknowledged the innovation of this project and said: “It’s the right scale for that environment in Dubai. It almost has a rock garden kind of feel to it. I think the internal spaces work really well and are clearly very flexible.”

The Office of the Future is a pioneering project with the entire structure being printed in concrete using an additive manufacturing technique. It is the first fully occupied building in the world to be constructed using such techniques. Adam also recognised this project for its innovation and applauded that although it’s highly innovative, that the outcome isn’t all about the innovative technique: “It’s actually created something which is appropriate to where it is, they've balanced it really well. It’s a very good design. It’s one of the few things which is at human scale in that area and you would really engage with this space.”

CLOUD HOUSE in U.S.A. by Matthew Mazzotta

CLOUD HOUSE is a project that has a unique rain harvesting system that creatively reuses the rainwater it collects to provide a deeper look into the natural systems that give us the food we eat. It is a sensory experience that amplifies the connection between our existence and the natural world. 

On rainy days, a gutter system collects rain that hits the roof and directs it to storage tank underneath the house. Sitting in the rocking chairs triggers a pump that brings the collected rainwater up into the ‘cloud’ to drop onto the roof, producing that warm pleasant sound of rain on a tin roof. This project brought smiles to the judges in the room with Jon first to share: “There’s something joyously bonkers about it. I really can’t let that one go, it’s just fun.”

Designed to collect and store rainwater for the ‘cloud’ to rain, this display of the water-cycle illustrates our fragile dependence on the natural systems that grow the food we eat, and at points throughout the year when there is low rainfall, the ‘cloud’ will not rain on the roof because it is simply out of water.

Adam reflected on Jon’s comments with: “I am just drawn to this, it’s just ‘joy’. The notion of rain on a tin roof is lovely. It’s just brilliant and it shows that a space can make you smile. I think it’s just so engaging and that’s architecture, that’s small spaces.”

SKJERVSFOSSEN in Norway by Fortunen AS

On the site of Skjervsfossen (Skjervet waterfall), Fortunen were commissioned to design a small service building consisting of two restrooms and a small technical room. The landscape design is by Østengen & Bergo. The client, Nasjonale turistveger, challenged Fortunen to accentuate and enhance the experience of the natural landscape, whilst not competing with it. The overall aspiration was to create a unique and surprising experience. 

The building itself sits within a larger open landscape and takes advantage of wide views towards the steep mountain walls, and the moving valley. Creating strong references to the site and its surroundings was an important feature of the project. The building appears as a small piece of the mountain, carved out of the rock and relocated to the other side of the riverbank.

The jury spoke of how much this project would be a treasure to discover and stumble upon. Speaking initially, Adam said: “Imagine you were out rambling and were to stumble across this? It would be a total surprise.” Jon in agreeance with Adam revealed: “Normally this sort of things would be an eye-sore, but it’s just so great.”


Wheel Pad in U.S.A. by LineSync Architecture

Wheel Pad is a project that can be attached to nearly any existing home through a backdoor or by removing the sill wall of a window. This project is a solution for individuals awaiting assisted living situations, or for families preferring in-house hospice care or individuals with spinal cord injuries deciding upon a long term solution. 

Wheel Pad provides eco-friendly temporary accessible housing for people with mobility issues, allowing friends and/or family to provide support until permanent accessible housing can be arranged. Marta nodded to the social impact this project creates: “Very original use of a proposal with possibilities of having a great social impact to improve the living conditions of people with reduced mobility.”

Jon appreciated how homely this project was, saying: “It doesn’t feel clinical at all, it’s a home from home. “

The Book Stop Project in the Philippines by WTA Design Studio

The Book Stop Project refocuses on the core program of a library as a place for books and reading, a space for human interaction, and a platform for learning. The Book Stop is a network of mobile spaces with each 12sqm space generating over 10 times more foot traffic and book turnover than the typical 200sqm municipal public library. This pop-up public library network explores how libraries need to evolve to engage with and attract contemporary users and promote reading in the next generation, as well as galvanise communities by creating community events where people can interact and share ideas with each other. 

Jon complimented this project saying: “I really like it. I think it’s great for getting people involved with books first and foremost. It celebrates books and allows reading sessions outside, it’s quite nice.” Adam responded to Jon’s comments saying: “For all the moral and social reasons you can’t disagree with it. I think it should be commended for what it does on a social level and for what it responds to.”

The Smile in U.K. by Alison Brooks Architects

‘The Smile’ was a hugely successful Landmark Project for the 2016 London Design Festival. Conceived as a habitable arc poised on the horizon, The Smile was a four sided curved timber tube that cantilevered 12m in two directions from its centre point. Entering The Smile through an opening where the arc touched the ground, the visitor could move from end to end of the 34m long dynamically curved space, gradually rising toward light. Each open end of the tube offered a viewing platform to enjoy unique, focussed views of London. 

Marta warmed to this project commenting: “Architecture of very simple appearance but with great structural and constructive complexity.”

Adam also smiled at this project and appreciated the quality of the light and the innovativeness of the space, sharing this views with the panel: “For me I thought it was a fantastic folly. Those views are so engaging. It’s just so un-conventional and extraordinary. I think this is purely unique for its internal space.”

Shi-An in Japan by Katagiri Architecture+Design

Shi-An is a movable tea house constructed for the Japanese Culture EXPO 2016 at the Daidokoro in Nijo-Jo Castle UNESCO World Heritage Site, Kyoto Japan. This tea house is inspired by the beauty of transient-ness which represents a Japanese sense of values towards space and environment.

By using solely Washi paper as a structural element, the materiality elaborates a contemporary space in tradition. In order to stabilise this fragile paper material, the Origami methodology is utilised to obtain a structural stiffness as well as a joint mechanism as a modular system to assemble its body. 500mm x 1000mm papers are folded 8 times to form a single unit with two pockets and two arms which allow them to be assembled without any glues, but just simply slotting into each other. This simple connection detail enables the pavilion to construct and dismount quickly and easily by anyone and anywhere without fixed foundations. 

Marta highly-praised the tradition within this project stating: “Traditional system used with great intelligence to create an architectural space of great spatial and light quality.”

Jon respected the design and liked the idea of how peaceful it would be to create: “I just like the idea that everything is placed very carefully. It’s very tranquil.”

The Smokehouse in Canada by Aamodt / Plumb Architects

The Smokehouse is a warming hut, a place of refuge, on the frozen Red River ice skating trail in Winnipeg. It is a structure you might find in the wilderness as you cross the frozen landscape by ski or skate. Like a cabin, ice fishing hut or tepee, it is a simple elemental structure that provides just enough comfort and contrast to the harsh conditions that for you to pause for a while to warm up. 

The layers of thick wool felt are shingled along the walls and seating, fastened with galvanised roofing nails to the wall studs. The undyed wool felt acts as blanket, insulation and wind stop; it is naturally fire-resistant and can withstand the elements that enter through the gaps in the walls.

Jon valued this temporary structure within the changing environment: “It still looks like it belongs, but in the same way that they season changes, the hut disappears and then it reappears in the winter.”

Adam welcomed this design stating: “I think that this is a very sweet idea. I like that they’re using all of the traditional materials, I think it’s lovely. This one is completely surprising when you understand what it’s for. I can imagine there’s nothing more inviting than to go into this little smoke hut, lined with wool and warm up. It’s very well executed, simply done to create a very extraordinary internal space.”

Paper House in China by Wutopia Lab

Located in Lin'An, China Paper House was built as a small temporary building. The architect took inspiration from constructions sketches that appear in ancient literati in Song or the Ming Dynasty. These can be made of paper, silk with wood or bamboo.  Attracted by these ancient notes, the architects decided to imitate a paper house with a bamboo frame according to those old notes. Paper House consists of pre-constructed units which can be built quickly and changed to be a tea house or a kiosk for dining for when hikers find beautiful scenery during their trip.

After taking a deeper look at its simplicity and use, Adam shared: “It’s un-mistakenly oriental in its feel and I just thought that it is a very calm space, particularly within its context. The details of the water drains and how it’s made out of bamboo, and that there’s nothing additional to it, it’s incredibly delicate.”

Agreeing with Adams comments, Jon expressed: “I would agree, that there is something sweet and simple about it. I think it is purely the simplicity and as you say it does create a beautiful space.”

WAN AWARDS would like to thank the jury for their participating and congratulate all of the twelve finalists in the WAN Small Spaces Award 2016. The overall winner of the permanent and temporary sub-categories will be announced on 7th March 2017.

Christina Ingram

Awards Coordinator

Want to submit your project to World Architecture News?

Contact The Team