AJ Exclusive: Shiro Studio wins Great Fen contest
Judges wowed by design proposals demonstrating ‘great intelligence, flair, flexibility and sensitivity’ in RIBA’s most popular competition of past year
Shiro Studio has seen off more than 200 entries to win the high-profile RIBA Competition to design a £2 million visitor centre in Cambridgeshire.
The emerging practice, which was set up by former Future Systems architect Andrea Morgante, beat finalists Foster Lomas, Birds Portchmouth Russum, Boyarsky Murphy and Feilden + Mawson in the contest (schemes pictured in gallery above)– described by the RIBA as its most popular in the past year.
The building will be the centrepiece of Cambridgeshire’s Great Fen nature reserve. The programme aims to transform 3,000 hectares of arable land into lakes, fen, bog, woodland and scrub over the next 50 to 100 years.
Developed with Mesh Partnership and Equals Consulting, Studio Shiro’s ‘elegant’ concept wowed the judges, ‘skillfully incorporating elements of the traditional Fenland building typology within an exciting contemporary visitor centre design’.
The jury was impressed by how the scheme’s ‘silvery and bog-oak black exterior, shimmering with the play of Fenland light’, contrasted with its ‘spacious, light-filled interiors and panoramic views onto the surrounding landscape’.
Cindy Walters, of Walters & Cohen, who chaired the judging panel, said: ‘The anonymous first stage attracted a phenomenal number of submissions and it was a challenging task to arrive at the final shortlist.
The proposals by Shiro Studio demonstrated great intelligence, flair, flexibility and sensitivity
‘In the end it was felt that the design proposals by Shiro Studio and their team best reflected the spirit of the Great Fen project and that their design proposals demonstrated great intelligence, flair, flexibility and sensitivity.’
RIBA Competitions managed the competition on behalf of the Great Fen, a partnership comprising the Environment Agency, Huntingdonshire District Council, the Middle Level Commissioners, Natural England and The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire. Each shortlisted team received a £3,000 honorarium.