26 March 2010

By Thomas Lane

Hard not to have a wiggle in your walk when you see the cornucopia of building projects shortlisted for the 2010 Building Awards

St Mary Magdalene academy – North London

The entrance to this Islington academy (pictured above) reveals its origin as a church school with a giant fish carved into the timber facade. It is actually a three-for-one project, with a secondary school, primary school and nursery on one site. The solution to fitting them all into the space available was to stack the sports hall over the assembly hall. This reads as one building externally but the two are structurally independent, so noise isn’t transmitted between them. Space on the roof hasn’t been wasted either – this is put to use as a games area.

The quality of finishes is high, particularly in the attractive atrium where a central timber-clad learning resource centre is connected by link bridges to the main building. Despite the tight site, the three schools have outdoor play areas and terraces for teaching on warm days.

Project team

Client London Diocesan Board for Schools and DCSF
Architect Feilden Clegg Bradley
Structural and M&E engineer Buro Happold
QS Davis Langdon
Contractor Mace
Entered by Feilden Clegg Bradley and Mace

John Hope Gateway at the Royal Botanic Garden – Edinburgh

Edinburgh’s Royal Botanic Garden has always lacked a focal point where visitors could get something to eat, buy gifts and find out about its work. This building is the answer, incorporating a restaurant on the top floor, and a shop, exhibition areas, and private rooms for hire downstairs.

The building makes the most of its setting, with generous glazing allowing uninterrupted views over the garden. The strong sense of bringing the outside in is further enhanced with external terraces separated by glass sliding doors.

Externally the material palette is timber, glass and crisply cut, dry-laid slate blocks. Sustainability was high on the agenda so the structure is mostly timber, with impossibly thin steel columns providing vertical support. Deep glulam beams support the roof and laminated-veneer lumber was used for the cladding. Rainwater harvesting, a biomass boiler, a wind turbine and photovoltaic panels are predicted to help it to an EPC A rating.

Project team

Client Royal Botanic Garden Edinburgh
Architect Edward Cullinan Architects
Contractor Xircon
Structural engineer Buro Happold
M&E engineer Max Fordham
QS Davis Langdon
Entered by Edward Cullinan Architects

John Moores University art and design academy – Liverpool

This facility pulls art and design teaching from four separate sites into one and is a key part of the university’s ambitions for its central Liverpool campus. The building is next door to the grade II-listed Metropolitan Cathedral, which presented the architect with a challenge. The response was a building conceived as a serpentine curve that is perfectly aligned with the cathedral behind. It has a glazed central atrium that offers students clear views of the cathedral as well as providing an uplifting space in the heart of the building. White bricks and a lime mortar that eliminates the need for movement joints, link the academy with the stone of the cathedral. Areas of zinc cladding at high level and on a projecting lecture theatre provide a second visual link with the cathedral’s stained glass windows. There is also a physical link between the two buildings to encourage cathedral visitors to take a look at the public exhibition areas in the new building. Studio spaces are simple and naturally lit, a sawtooth facade to the south minimises solar gain and there are fantastic views over the city from upper levels.

Project team

Client Liverpool John Moores University
Architect Rick Mather Architects
Contractor Wates
Structural and M&E engineer Ramboll UK
QS Turner & Townsend
Entered by Rick Mather Architects

City academy – North-East London

Hackney’s City academy has achieved an “A” rating on its energy performance certificate, which is all the more praiseworthy as architect Studio E had to find a way to ventilate the building naturally even though it was next to a noisy main road. The solution was a noise-reflecting glass rainscreen set in front of the main cladding at first and second floor levels. Air passes through an acoustic baffle to dampen any residual noise and out into the corridor by way of another baffle so people in classrooms can’t hear people outside.

The building uses its wide corridors, glass balustrades and glazed screens to the teaching areas to help get natural light down to the ground floor. Heating is provided using a ground-source heat pump.

The same team had worked together on an academy in Southwark and were able to implement lessons learned from the previous project, with the result that contractor Willmott Dixon handed the project over on budget and two weeks early despite a six-week delay at its beginning.

Project team

Client City Academy Trust
Architect Studio E Architects
Contractor Willmott Dixon
Structural engineer Dewhurst McFarlane and Partners
M&E engineer Max Fordham
QS Northcroft
Entered by Willmott Dixon

Dunraven sports hall Lambeth – South London

Shipping containers are the right size for housing and offices but how could something 12m long and 2.5m wide be used to build a sports hall? The answer, quite simply, was to arrange the containers in a rectangle with a void in the middle for the hall and stick a roof on to keep the weather out. Thirty containers make up the building and are used to house changing rooms and administrative areas. Shipping containers are a sustainable solution because more arrive in the UK than go out, and it isn’t economically viable to send them back empty to the original supplier. It also happens to be a cheap way of getting a new building – Scabal says the project was 27% cheaper than a conventional sports hall, as well as having the advantage of taking just five months to build.

Project team

Client Lambeth Council
Architect Scabal
Contractors Container City; Urban Space Management
Structural engineer The Furness Partnership
M&E engineer CBG QS Keegans
Entered by Scabal

Heathfield children’s centre Twickenham – West London

This brightly coloured little building in a quiet side street pulls together a nursery, an adult education centre and childcare facilities. The building follows the idea of a protective walled garden with gabion walls on the north–south perimeter of the building. Internally the building has cross walls running east to west, which divides it up into four distinct areas. There is little circulation space within the building so nursery pupils have a dedicated entrance on the north side, and adults and their children to the south. Office accommodation is in the middle of the building and entered from the side. The fourth area contains the toilets and kitchen. Despite the limited space, the project has a small courtyard at its centre that brings natural light into the building and doubles up as a social space. The brightly coloured cladding is formed from 600mm-deep factory-painted tongue-and-groove boards. The end result is simple, effective and successful – the facilities are massively oversubscribed.

Project team

Client London Borough of Richmond upon Thames
Architect Sarah Wigglesworth Architects
Contractor Hilife Construction
Structural engineer Price & Myers
M&E engineer XC02
QS Davis Langdon
Entered by Sarah Wigglesworth Architects

Kentish Town health centre – North London

Kentish Town health centre is proof that LIFT procurement doesn’t necessarily lead to mediocre results. The scheme had the benefit of an enlightened client teamed up with a premier league architect and conditions in the contract that stopped the design being watered down. The health centre offers a broad range of services including a GP practice, dentistry and mental health facilities. The building has a triple-height central street with surgeries off to the side which helps with orientation and lighting, as well as making patients feel they have come somewhere special. Bold graphics help with wayfinding and provide welcome bursts of decorative colour. Transparency is a key theme so upstairs rooms have windows over the street and link bridges are glazed. Specifications as simple as magnetic nameplates for doors and individual trolleys for doctors’ equipment means the consulting rooms are always in use. Externally the building is broken up like the blocks on a game of Jenga, which softens the facade and provides external break-out areas for staff and patients. The building is naturally ventilated and has grey water harvesting.

Project team

Client Camden Islington Community Solutions
Architect Allford Hall Monaghan Morris
Contractor Morgan Ashurst
Structural engineer Elliot Wood Partnerships
M&E engineer Peter Deer Associates
Entered by Allford Hall Monaghan Morris

Elizabeth II Court – Winchester

Even though it was conceived in more profligate times, Elizabeth II Court taps right into the zeitgeist for green refurbishment. A nasty sixties concrete office block designed in an age when planners thought cars were the only way of getting around has been transformed into an ultra low energy home for Hampshire council. Bennetts Associates wanted to naturally ventilate the building, but it is an island surrounded by busy roads. The answer was to draw air from the former car park in the centre of the development through the building and up specially developed ducts on the building exterior. The air leaves at the top of the ducts through baffles high above the traffic so noise can’t penetrate into the office space. The result is a building said to have reduced carbon emissions by two-thirds, which is on a par with new-build low-energy offices. The building has been reclad with red brick which, together with the external stacks, taps into the Winchester vernacular style of red brick terraced housing.

Project team

Client Hampshire County Council
Architect Bennetts Associates
Contractor BAM
Structural engineer Gifford
M&E engineer Ernest Griffiths
QS Davis Langdon
Entered by Bennetts Associates

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