Page N3.2 . 17 April 2002                     
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    British AIA Design Awards 2002


    A Parking Lot with a Concept

    Zaha Hadid's design for the tram station and parking lot on the outskirts of Strasbourg forms part of an initiative to include installations by major artists at key points along the city's new comprehensive commuter transit system.

    The design for the tram line's northern apex treats the entire terminus as an installation. The design translates the movements of cars, trams, bicycles, and pedestrians into overlapping fields and lines that knit into a constantly shifting whole. According to Hadid, the movement patterns manifest as space and form in the materials of the station and its landscaping.

    For example, the parking lot does not merely accommodate 700 cars. It also expresses the idea of the cars as a shifting, ephemeral element on the site, expressed as a directional "field" of white lines on black tarmac. The lines delineating each parking space begin on a north-south alignment at the lowest part of the site, and gradually rotate with the site's curving boundary.

    This rotation, says the architect, creates reciprocity between static and dynamic elements. At another scale, a swath of lighter concrete sweeps across the parking lot, linking the two "fields" of parking lot and transit station.

    Within the station, force-fields continue to play as furniture, light lines in the floor, and strip lights in the ceiling. Viewed in plan, each line represents a move in a complex but perceptible order.

    A question the project raises is whether the ideas it contains, which are perceptible primarily in plan and from a great height, succeed in communicating themselves to individual minds within the pattern, that is to say, to users. Or is it necessary that they do so for the project to succeed?

    As a transit station, the project aims to offer commuters an energetic, attractive space that is clearly defined in terms of function and circulation. As an expression of imagination and intellect, the project aims to create a synthesis between ground, light, and space.

    By articulating the moments of transition between open landscape and public interior space, the architect says she hopes to create a new notion of an "artificial nature," that "blurs the boundaries between natural and artificial environments towards the improving of civic life for Strasbourg."

    There can be little doubt that a public transit station that is both effective and meaningful makes a significant contribution to civic life; it is not entirely clear in what way a notion of "artificial nature" does so.

    Perhaps the value of this notion lies in the implication that humans and our artifacts are elements or "fields" in a larger pattern, nature, and that our individual choices trajectories manifest as traces in that larger pattern. That would be an encouraging idea for commuters to contemplate as they leave their cars behind and board a tram for the city.

    An Awe-Inspiring Bridge

    The building of the Gateshead Millennium Bridge, an elegant and ingenious bridge across England's River Tyne, has attracted public attention to a degree seldom seen in an age saturated with technological marvels.

    Designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, the bridge is a world first with its simple yet awe-inspiring operation. When closed, small river craft can sail beneath the bridge. But for larger vessels, the cable-stayed, double-arched structure pivots at an angle of 40 degrees to form a gateway arch. The bridge operates like the lid of a giant eye slowly opening, forming an arch under which ships pass.

    An Elegant Office Building

    To a dense, high-profile, and historic district of London already remarkable for its architectural diversity, Richard Rogers Partnership (RRP) has added a graceful and airy office building, 88 Wood Street.

    The building's elegant massing of varied volumes is unified by a steel-rod-braced concrete frame. Bright yellow steel stairs and red and blue ventilation funnels supply RRP's trademark splashes of color.

    RRP director Graham Stirk likened the design for 88 Wood Street to "landing an oil tanker in the City and trying to give it manners." When first proposed, the project raised anxieties among architects and local residents, but the reality has proven itself, achieving landmark status in a neighborhood of distinctive architecture.

    A Successful Riverside Park

    Thames Barrier Park, formerly a derelict riverside site, and London's only new riverside public park in the last 50 years, won jurors' praise as both confident and witty.

    Visitors to the 22-acre (9-hectare) park are greeted by a stunning water fountain that flows into the park's key feature, a sunken garden called the Green Dock. The park offers a variety of experience, including a riverside promenade, a children's playground, basketball court, and a Pavilion of Remembrance to commemorate local victims of war.

    "There are so few good landscape schemes on major sites in the UK," said awards program jurors. "Thames Barrier Park is hugely habitable."

    The AIA London/UK Design Awards jury comprised Rory Coonan, Sir Colin Stansfield Smith, Professor Adrian Gale, Larry Oltmanns (Skidmore, Owings & Merrill), Vivien Lovell (Modus Operandi), and Piers Gough (CZWG). The AIA London/UK chapter, founded in 1990, consists of nearly 200 architects throughout the United Kingdom.

    Katharine Logan is an assistant editor of ArchitectureWeek.



    ArchWeek Image

    Inside the Terminus and Car Park by Zaha Hadid Architects, was one of four top winners of the annual AIA London/UK Design Awards.
    Photo: Helene Binet

    ArchWeek Image

    The three steps of London's 88 Wood Street by Richard Rogers with their respective glazed circulation towers.
    Photo: Don Barker

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    The award-winning Thames Barrier Park by architect Patel Taylor and landscape architects Group Signe, with the barrier in the background.
    Photo: Don Barker

    ArchWeek Image

    The Gateshead Millennium Bridge, by Wilkinson Eyre Architects, with its predecessor, the Tyne Bridge, in the background.
    Photo: Don Barker

    ArchWeek Image

    Student award winner Max Ngai, of the University of Newcastle upon Tyne, designed an unusual building type in which police, fire, and ambulance forces are housed under the same roof.
    Image: Max Ngai

    ArchWeek Image

    Max Ngai's Marylebone Police, Ambulance & Fire Building expresses both openness to the public through glazed transparency and security through its concrete structure.
    Image: Max Ngai

    ArchWeek Image

    Design for the Kielder Water Sailing Centre by Fred Pittman, a year-out student of University of Newcastle upon Tyne, reflects the exposure, movement, and dynamism of the site.
    Image: Fred Pittman

    ArchWeek Image

    A project by James Taylor and Mike Shaw, 2001 graduates of Edinburgh University, was the culmination of a year's study of the Transport Basin in Prague.
    Image: James Taylor and Mike Shaw


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