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Europan faces axe in UK as CABE withdraws backing

The demise of Europan in the UK looks increasingly likely following the news that CABE will not back next year’s contest

It is understood that the commission does not have the funding to run Europan 11 in the UK – due to launch this year – and no other sponsors have come forward to help manage the Europe-wide housing design competition aimed at young and emerging practices.

Despite success on the continent, the UK has failed to deliver a single Europan project over a notoriously unproductive 16-year-long ‘flirtation’ with the biennial competition.

During CABE’s six-year involvement, only Witherford Watson Mann has managed to achieve outline planning permission for its Stonebridge estate scheme, and the commission withdrew the UK from Europan 10 in 2008 due to a lack of suitable sites.

‘It does seem that the UK is shooting itself in the foot by not having talented young architects focus on sites in this country,’ said Phil Catcheside of Europan 8 victor Loop Architecture [collaborating with Harry Dobbs Design], who is urging the RIBA to step in to fill CABE’s shoes.

‘I wonder if the RIBA could be tempted again and show some commitment to younger, smaller practices who find it difficult to get onto shortlists without the benefit of open competitions like Europan.  Failing the institute I wonder whether any other organisation at all is willing to pick it up.

Tim Riley of Europan 9 winner RCKa (Stoke site - pictured) said: ‘With this disappointing news, is it not time that we had a wider debate about nurturing young design talent in the UK?’

‘Europan on the continent is highly thematic which does not appear to sit well with the UK’s more site specific and practical approach to the competition. With this in mind should [the commission] run their own competition better suited to the needs of UK site sponsors, developers and young architects?’

A spokesperson for CABE said: ‘We still believe that design competitions are excellent for achieving innovation and quality in housing [and we] are continuing to provide enabling support for the winners of Europan 8 and Europan 9 – although these schemes have, inevitably, slowed down along with the rest of the housing market.’

Postscript

Though there were no opportunities for UK firms to shine on home shores, London-based RALA Architects and a team led by Ana Reis and Ross Langdon of Langdon Reis Architects did mange to scoop honours overseas in the last contest [Europan 10].

Edinburgh University graduates Stuart MacKellar and Michael Cooke also won a first prize for ‘Ambient Kerb’ in Warsaw - submitted under the name of supervising practice Spanish Architects MMASA.

Meanwhile London-based practice Zectorarchitects, headed by Carsten Jungfer and Norbert Kling, was awarded first prize for its ‘multi-scalar urban design’ proposal in Dessau.

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