WAN Urban Challenge 2018: The Winners

Gail Taylor
Tuesday 08 May 2018

Last week we announced the 12 shortlisted submissions to WAN’s Urban Challenge 2018. This week, we are excited to reveal the five deserving winners eventually selected by our esteemed judges from the 76 entries we received.

For those as yet unfamiliar with the WAN Urban Challenge, it is an initiative that seeks to address the reclamation of our city streets due to the predicted demise of the combustion engine and the rise of the autonomous vehicle (AV). This will represent one of the largest transformations of the urban environment since the motor car first arrived. We therefore asked architects to submit their vision of cities where the streets are newly liberated, demonstrating the profession’s ability to lead the debate.

The highly-respected panel of judges comprised Peter Bishop, Urban Planner and Urban Designer at Allies and Morrison; Feryal Demirci, Cabinet Member for Neighbourhoods, Transport & Parks; John Goldwyn, Vice President and Director of Planning & Landscape London of WATG; Alice Lester, Head of Planning, Transport and Licensing at Brent Council, and Peter Murray, Chairman of New London Architecture and member of the Mayor of London’s Design Advisory Group. 

Judges were looking for originality, innovation, quality, sustainability, transferability, context and evidence, plus the ability to tell the ‘story’ of the project through excellent presentation. After considerable discussion, these were the six winners they chose:


CO-Create Charoenkrung, Bangkok, Thailand by SHMA SOEN Company Limited

The Co-create Charoenkrung project seeks to develop Charoenkrung, a district of economic and historical importance, into a new “creative district”; one that redefines and sets a new precedent for future creative industries. The project uses a new inclusive method of design and was devised in order to identify problems in the community, and to meet criteria such as the public’s physical, psychological, economic and social needs. 

The judges all found the proposal ‘convincing’, with Peter Bishop commenting: “It looks at function in a really sophisticated way. This is really thinking about reclaiming the streets for something completely different.” Alice Lester added: “I like the district approach and the engagement approach. It has a methodology as well as a strategy from conception to delivery.”


Future Street, Sydney, Australia by Place Design Group

From 12-15 October 2017, Alfred Street in Sydney, Australia was transformed into a street of the future as part of the Australian Institute of Landscape Architects’ (AILA) 2017 International Festival. In partnership with AILA, Smart Cities Council and the Internet of Things Alliance Australia, Place Design Group conceptualised and led the design for ‘Future Street’ to deliver a real-life experience of a potential street from the future. Beyond the physical demonstration street, education and transferability have been at the heart of the project.

The judges all commended this ‘pop-up’ scheme and felt it had the edge because, as Peter Bishop commented: “They’ve actually done it. And a city like Sydney desperately needs it.”


Nærheden: Suburb of the Future, Copenhagen, Denmark by karres+brands

The project team developed a strategic plan aimed at achieving a unique quality of living as a complement to existing suburbs around Copenhagen. The proposal is an area where urban qualities meet suburban life in a structure that is both low-density and green cluster, with four different neighbourhoods reflecting the varied local landscape characteristics and neighbouring build structures. The masterplan’s cluster structure gives a robust framework, with a varied urban fabric that can absorb the needs of small and large scale developers, private initiatives, and building groups, as well as different programmes.

Alice Lester commented that it wasn’t a ‘one-size-fits-all’ solution and that it considered a lot of different opportunities. The judges were impressed by the masterplan and agreed with Peter Bishop when he said: “It’s a really sophisticated working of an urban block.” 


RE-THINK ATHENS, Athens, Greece by OKRA landschapsarchitecten

On behalf of the Greek government, the Onassis Foundation has organised an international competition for regeneration of Athens’ City Centre. On the front pages of all the newspapers, OKRA’s winning entry was described as what the city really needs for change. Decades of rapid growth in Athens caused infrastructural problems and social-cultural imbalance, against a background of difficult economic circumstances. OKRA’s plans to transform Athens’ city centre into a green network includes a resiliency strategy with specific attitudes towards reducing urban heat and improving thermal comfort.

John Goldwyn said of the project: “I love this.” Alice praised it for ‘responding to current challenges that are going to be on-going into the future’, while Peter Bishop felt that in terms of reclaiming the streets, this project did so on a ‘metropolitan scale’.


WAP (Washington Alley Project), Washington DC, United States by EL Studio

The Washington Alley Project (WAP) examines the city’s informal alley network as a viable site for new modes of urban living, presenting the city with an opportunity to adapt to future social and technological change without sacrificing its unique architectural heritage. Using temporary wayfinding graphics, EL Studio would curate a walkable path between the three alleys, selected for their unique physical conditions and their proximity.

Peter Murray was particularly keen on this case study. After observing that the City of London had for a long time been poor at considering how throughways linked to everything else, he said of WAP: “I think it’s that connectivity that’s so important. The fact that they’ve surveyed a wider area so that you can see if you walk here, you’re going to connect to this block or that block. It’s a great scheme.” John Goldwyn found the project ‘fascinating’.


And lastly, the ‘Dystopian Prize’

The judges wanted to give special mention to a maverick vision of the future offered by Atkins with its ‘Too Much of a Good Thing’ submission. In a darkly humorous tone, it describes a dystopian urban landscape where the night sky is no longer lit by stars, but by an army of drones; where an automated vehicle cannot be found guilty of knocking down a pedestrian, and life goes round and round on the same predictable automated circuit day in, day out. Underlying the submission is the stark message: ‘watch out, you might get what you’re after’.

Peter Bishop said: “I think it’s brilliant. It’s a dystopian story about what happens if you take AVs to their illogical – actually their logical – conclusion. It’s completely way out there.” Peter Murray loved that it was the ‘only pessimistic submission’, finding it ‘very cheeky’. He was the judge who declared: “It’s not a winner, but deserves a special ‘Dystopian Prize’,” hence this unofficial accolade.


The judges all praised the overall standard of submissions to the WAN Urban Challenge 2018, especially the broad range from micro to major in scale. Feryal Demirci summed up: “For me it was heartening to see the level of innovations. It’s fascinating and fabulous that people are thinking about amazing ways of creating new spaces and looking at how our cities function, so I’m really impressed.”


You can view last week’s summary of the 12 shortlisted projects here.


Gail Taylor

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