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Why Marley Eternit backs the AJ Small Projects Awards

Maggie’s Merseyside, Wirral by Carmody Groarke
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Paul Reed, sales and marketing director at Marley Eternit, explains why the roofing and facades supplier backs the Small Projects awards

Why are the Small Projects awards important to you?

As a manufacturer, one of our roles in the construction process is to ensure we are one step ahead of design trends, making sure we continue to produce roofing and facade products with the versatility, performance and environmental qualities needed to help architects push the boundaries of design and meet sustainability requirements.

As a sponsor of the AJ Small Projects awards, not only do we gain a glimpse into future design trends but we also get to meet the architects and gain insights into the challenges they face, particularly when it comes to choice of materials. Building relationships with architects and supporting them with the right technical information and product innovation is critical to us, and the AJ Small Projects sponsorship is an important part of this process.

What is it you like about the awards and the architects who participate?

Marley Eternit is proud to have been able to support the AJ Small Projects awards for so many years because it gives smaller architectural practices a platform to demonstrate their innovative and inspirational buildings.

From a personal point of view, what I love is that you couldn’t possibly imagine the diversity and scope of designs that can come under the heading of ‘Small Projects’. What they lack in budget they more than make up for in imagination and, every year without fail, there are always some really unusual projects, as well as those that offer practical solutions for everyday building challenges, such as making the most of limited space.

The awards also help to identify future design talent and you can be sure that winners of the Small Projects awards will almost certainly go on to achieve great things in the world of architecture.

What do you look forward to seeing?

There is such a diverse range of projects shortlisted for this year’s awards that I’m looking forward to meeting the architects and finding out more about their design inspiration and choice of building materials. The AJ Small Projects entries always have a real sense of adventure about them and are very focused on the client’s needs, so often the most interesting thing is finding out the story behind the designs.

What do you enjoy most about the live crits?

The AJ Small Projects live crits is a compelling and fast-paced afternoon and there is always such a high standard of entries. With just two minutes to present, the architects really do have to come up with some imaginative and memorable ways to explain their designs. It is like speed dating and we only have a limited time to find out why each project should win, so that makes the architects and everyone on the panel very focused. It also means we get to meet the architects face-to-face, which makes each and every entry much more personal because we can see the passion that has gone into the design.

The crits are like speed dating

What advice would you give to the architects presenting their projects?

Make it memorable and make those two minutes count. You can’t do a detailed presentation in two minutes, so how else could you tell us the story of your entry? Remember that outstanding design is the number one criteria championed by the jury. But also show how you responded imaginatively to the client’s brief and how you used the small budget creatively.

What projects have stood out for you over the years?

We have seen some really interesting projects that push the boundaries when it comes to sustainability and prove that building in a more environmentally conscious way can be balanced with other design and cost considerations. One good example was the Royal William Yard Staircase; a distinctive staircase with colour-changing lights, which connects the coastal path at Western King with the Grade II-listed Royal William Yard in Plymouth and was the Sustainability winner in 2014. Another notable project is last year’s AJ Small Projects winner, the Maggie Centre, a temporary cancer care centre in Merseyside which took an innovative approach to the re-use of materials and was built entirely from six redundant site cabins.

Also, I think the projects that focus on solutions to real life construction challenges always stand out and Chris Dyson’s Wapping extension, which won the award in 2014, is memorable as a really intelligent solution, which responded to the history of the site but was also adventurous.

It is often within the smallest of projects that we see the greatest ideas

Why are small projects good for the profession?

The need to work within tighter budgets and smaller spaces has become an economic necessity and in many cases it can foster, rather than hinder, creativity as architects need to push the boundaries to go further with less. It is often within the smallest of projects that we see the greatest ideas, those that could then be taken and used on a much bigger scale.

Have you seen any noticeable changes in the type, size or style of projects since you became involved in the awards?

What is really interesting about the projects entered for this year’s awards is that they are mirroring some of the trends we ourselves are seeing. There are several entries that demonstrate how a small budget can be used to maximise space, with some striking urban extension projects on this year’s shortlist.

We noticed that there is increasing demand for innovative approaches to extending the space in homes in densely populated urban environments, so we were pleased to see that this is one of the challenges being tackled by some of this year’s entries, with the use of different types of cladding materials to create distinctive extensions.

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