Page N2.1 . 09 April 2003                     
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    London AIA Design Awards 2003

    by ArchitectureWeek

    The London/UK Chapter of the American Institute of Architects announced in February, 2003 the results of its 9th Annual Excellence in Design Awards Programme. These awards honor projects from British-based architects and from architects throughout the world who build in the United Kingdom.

    One of the projects recognized for highest achievement is the Plymouth Theatre Royal Production Centre by the London firm Ian Ritchie Architects. The project centralizes the theater company's spaces for rehearsals, costume design, and set construction.

    The building occupies a prominent waterfront site within the estuary valley of the River Plym. The architectural scheme was based on natural themes like "driftwood" — volumes of the building washed up by the tide on the rocky beach — and "veils" — the naturally weathering and light-filtering skins of the envelope. The woven phosphor bronze wrap of the beached performance spaces presents a soft metal building to the riverside public footpath.

    London-based Eric Parry Architects Ltd. won a design award for "30 Finsbury Square," a commercial office building, notable for its construction of load-bearing stone in deference to its historic neighbors. The limestone contrasts with the otherwise extensive use of glass, metallic infill panels and polished granite cladding. The pier pattern expresses the structure through reduced loading towards the top, but some vertical alignments are offset to create shifts in focus.

    The structural system includes horizontal precast concrete units that act as transfer beams carrying the load onto rectangular stone piers. Load transfers from precast lintel to column centers are not straightforward because the columns do not follow a regular pattern. The architects describe the resulting irregular, undulating rhythm as "a lyrical approach to structure."

    One of the design award winners, the Downland Gridshell by Edward Cullinan Architects, was described in an earlier issue of ArchitectureWeek. This building for the Weald & Downland Open Air Museum uses locally available materials and craftsmanship but is unique in its structure and construction. A grid of supple oak laths was laid flat, then gradually lowered over 15 weeks to its undulating form. The architects say, "through well considered design leading to well crafted construction, it is possible to promote and maintain the skills and products of the region."

    Several projects also received commendations in the awards program. One was a major remodel of the Royal Academy of Music in London by John McAslan + Partners. This celebrated music conservatory was founded early in the 19th century. A new structure, connecting two historic buildings, features recording studios and a barrel-vaulted concert hall. Says music professor Curtis Price: "Though shoe-horned into a tiny footprint, the recital hall seems airy and spacious."

    Another commendation went to the London firm Nicholas Hare Architects for the Chafford Hundred Learning Practice. Facilities include primary and secondary schools, also used for after-hours adult education. A long toplit atrium links two principal entrances and provides a central welcoming area around which the classrooms and main community facilities are arranged. These include public library, drama studio, sports hall, and Internet cafe. The wings reach out into the landscape to define safe outdoor play areas. Exterior materials have been chosen for durability, but the interior is deliberately restrained with hopes that students will apply their own artwork to public spaces.

    Other AIA London/UK 2003 award winners include Eva Jiricna for the Hotel Josef in Prague, Ian Simpson for Urbis in Manchester, and Studio Bednarski for the Kent Messenger Millenium Bridge in Maidstone. Student Travel Awards were given to Achim Menges, Elena Zabeli, Mariano Ciccone, and Kenny Tsui.

    The jury included James Eyre RIBA, Paul Finch Hon. FRIBA, Kevin Flannagan AIA, Zaha Hadid CBE, RIBA, Mark Kelly RIBA, RAIA, Doug Streeter, RIBA, Rafael Vinoly FAIA, JIA, SCA, and Stephan C. Reinke AIA RIBA.



    ArchWeek Image

    The Plymouth Theatre Royal Production Centre by Ian Ritchie Architects, was one winner of an Excellence in Design Award from the London/ UK Chapter of the AIA.
    Photo: Jocelyne van den Bossche

    ArchWeek Image

    "30 Finsbury Square," with an irregular facade of stone piers, by Eric Parry Architects.
    Photo: Hélène Binet

    ArchWeek Image

    The oak slats of Downland Gridshell by Edward Cullinan Architects, were laid flat and then lowered gradually over time.
    Photo: Keegan Duigenan

    ArchWeek Image

    The new recital hall by John McAslan + Partners for the venerable Royal Academy of Music in London.
    Photo: Peter Cook / VIEW

    ArchWeek Image

    Combined school and community facilities in the Chafford Hundred Learning Practice by Nicholas Hare Architects.
    Photo: Martin Charles


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