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Levitt Bernstein wins troubled Islington contest

Islington Council has chosen Levitt Bernstein Associates to take forward designs for a new affordable housing in north London

The practice was chosen ahead of Avanti Architects and Brady Mallalieu Architects in the headline-grabbing competition to which drew criticism last year over its low fee offer and the high level of work required (AJ 26.11.09 - see below).

Hailed as ‘a new philosophy on 21st century family living’, Levitt Bernstein’s victorious Homesown proposals will encourage a ‘grow your own food’ ethos.

Fifty-nine design teams entered the open competition, run by Islington Council and supported by Homes for Islington, for ‘a new exemplary architectural style’ achieving level 5 for the Code for Sustainable Homes family housing .

It is understood the first development site will be a small ‘infill plot’ of land in a built up part of Finsbury Park.

A spokesman said: ‘It is hoped that once the Vaudeville Court scheme is built, the new style could be replicated in other parts of the borough and elsewhere in London.

A planning application is expected to be submitted by the end of the year.

Previous story (AJ 14.05.10)

Shortlist named in botched Islington contest

Islington Council has finally chosen three architects to take forward designs for a new affordable housing development in north London

Levitt Bernstein, Avanti Architects and Brady Mallalieu Architects all made the cut in the headline-grabbing competition to design Vaudeville Court, which drew criticism last year over its low fee offer and the high level of work required (AJ 26.11.09 - see below).

The competition, to build around 20 new social housing units in Finsbury Park, focuses on developing ‘a new exemplary architectural style’ achieving Level 5 for the Code for Sustainable Homes.

Seema Manchanda, director of regeneration at Islington Council, said: ‘The profession really rose to the challenge and the judging panel had a lot to consider before picking these three worthy entries for the shortlist.’

The three finalists, picked from 59 entries, were judged on a range of criteria including design quality, sustainability, affordability and how easily the design could be reproduced across London.

They will be paid £10,000 each to develop their approach further.

Jo McCafferty, director at Levitt Bernstein, said: ‘The council wants us to re-interpret the Georgian terrace in London.

‘We haven’t been given the programme for the final submissions, but I suspect it will be in the summer sometime.’

Islington Council, together with its housing partner Homes for Islington, will choose a winner in September. If the project is a success the design could be replicated in sites across the capital.

The project is supported by the London Development Agency.

Previous story (AJ 27.11.09)

Under-fire council redrafts affordable housing contest brief

Furious architects have prompted Islington Council to rethink its affordable housing design contest

The competition, which has attracted widespread criticism over its low fee offer and the high level of work required, has seen fees and briefs changed as a result.

The competition focuses on developing ‘a new exemplary architectural style’ achieving level 5 for the Code for Sustainable Homes family housing in North London and originally asked for an A0-size concept proposal to be submitted with the expression of interest by 18 November and an honorarium of £5,000.

Just hours before the cut-off, the council announced it was extending the deadline until 8 January, and offered to pay £10,000 to each of the three shortlisted firms.

A letter to participants added that those shortlisted would not have to work to Stage D design as originally stated, but ‘demonstrate the viability, deliverability and quality of their approach’.

One architect said: ‘Changing the brief the day before deadline is taking the mickey. I want to know why the RIBA aren’t involved. But we won’t be complaining, if you stand up and shout about it you get a black mark against your name.’

The council has also drawn criticism for its lack of information on how entries would be weighted, prompting fears that firms that have had a tough financial year could be forced out of the competition even if they submitted winning designs.

‘It’s a textbook example of how not to run a competition,’ said another firm. ‘We don’t know if they’re being upfront about the weighting, so practices could have very interesting ideas but not get through because of paperwork.’

Some architects are considering withdrawing from the competition. One said: ‘We put aside a fee-paying job for this and we didn’t even get the email to tell us the deadline had changed. We probably won’t go ahead with the competition now because we don’t want to work with a client who mucks us around.’

 

Readers' comments (4)

  • We were told about the deadline being put back when we delivered our entry. Only when we emailed asking what was going on did we receive a letter telling us about the changes. An utter shambles.

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  • The real story here is that there are architects that even entered a competition that asked for so much yet paid so little. Architects only have themselves to blame. By entering competitions like these you are sending a message to clients that what we do is not worth much.

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  • I disagree. It's a competition. The basic premise of a competition is that one does a lot of unpaid work 'at risk', in order to win the prize, ie the commission. If the unpaid work isn't worth the risk, don't enter the competition.

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  • I managed to catch sight of one of the shortlisted entries. It was rubbish. 200mm external walls, in-flexible layout for 6-8 person houses...

    It is totally clear to me that the shortlisted practices were chosen purely on reputation rather than integrity of the design.

    Don't take my word for it, the winning entries and selected other will be on show during architecture week.

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