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Architecture Foundation launches contest for Hackney rooftop 'Antepavilion'

Hackney, north east London
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The Architecture Foundation has launched an international competition to design a £25,000 pop-up rooftop ‘Antepavilion’ at Columbia and Brunswick Wharf in Hackney, north-east London

The contest, open to emerging architects, artists and designers, seeks ‘experimental’ proposals for a temporary structure to occupy the 40m² roof of a former industrial complex now used as artist studios, overlooking the Regent’s canal in Haggerston.

The contest is planned to run every year, and is backed by studios operator Art House Foundation and historic regeneration specialist Shiva. The winning scheme will be erected on the rooftop by 1 August and will also feature in the annual Open House weekend.

According to the brief: ‘The purpose of the project is to explore and encourage the range and complexity of work currently being produced across the disciplines of architecture design and fine art, and particularly to support and promote the work and ideas of less established architects, emerging practices, artists or craftsmen.

‘Considerable importance will be attached to the aesthetic contribution that structures can make to a highly visible, eclectic, experimental urban environment.’

The two-storey Columbia Wharf and its neighbour Brunswick Wharf were originally home to the Gas Light and Coke Company, but were transformed into artist studios almost 20 years ago. The two buildings, at 53-55 Laburnum Street, overlook Haggerston Baths and BDP’s 2008 Bridge Academy.

Artists based inside the Columbia and Brunswick Wharf complex include sculptor Owen Bullett, Dutch artist Magali Reus and 2016 Turner Prize winner Helen Marten.

Proposals should consider innovative or alternative ways of living within the city and new forms of urban housing, such as micro-dwellings. Sustainable schemes that harness recycled or recyclable materials are also encouraged.

The winning scheme may occupy the site for up to two years and should therefore be lightweight, quick to build and easy to disassemble.

Up to five shortlisted teams will each receive an equal share of a £3,000 fund to develop their schemes during the competition’s second phase. The shortlisted designs will feature in an exhibition inside the Art House Foundation Gallery space at Columbia Wharf.

The overall winner will receive a small cash prize alongside materials and labour to support delivering their design.

The deadline for submissions is midnight, 31 March.

How to apply

Visit the competition website for more information


Q+A: Russell Gray, managing director Shiva



Russell Gray

  • What is your vision for the Antepavilion commission?

To enable young and emerging architects/designers/artists/craftsmen to explore a hands-on and more free-form ‘architectural’ production process than the confines of commercial architecture/design will allow. The structure may be more or less habitable; it can directly relate to fully-habitable mobile micro-housing or it could be no more than shelter from the sun or rain, like a Japanese tea pavilion. It needs only to be possible to get inside in some meaningful way. Architectural quality is paramount but that doesn’t mean particularly expensive or high quality materials or fine craftsmanship are welcome or relevant. This would be nonsense in a transient structure. It is about ideas and experimentation. The structure is specified to not exceed a footprint of 40 sq. m. The budget is £10,000 for the commission to cover design and hands-on work by the winner with a guide of £15,000 for materials and craftsmen to assist with fabrication/construction on site. The project is annual because the idea is to create an ongoing initiative and expression for the kind of hands-on construction that I would like to see form a part of many architects’/designers’/artists’ experience. It is conceived as annual because as a one-off it would make little impact in this respect.

  • How will the pavilion relate to the Columbia and Brunswick Wharf complex and its surrounding context?

The brief is certainly to connect with the site but it should be in relatively abstract ways; we don’t want a mere industrial shed because thats what the site comprises. Structures should be in complete contrast in the sense that they are all about ideas and very little to do with the creation of a perfunctory enclosed volume, which is the objective that clearly drove the existing site buildings. However they must pick up on the themes established by the location of the site: its surroundings, including the waterside setting, and its use as predominantly artists’ studios and gallery space. The structures are intended for erection solely on the flat rooftops as temporary structures, and in that respect, they may be validly seen by some entrants as potentially viable mobile micro-housing experiments. Use of re-cycled and recyclable materials will be encouraged and favoured.

The site will inevitably be developed in the medium term. It is conceivable that the commission will generate ideas that can find expression in the evolved site - which our ethos favours being through organic development. Even though the existing buildings are of little or no intrinsic architectural value the industrial history of the site earns it some respect in my book. Shiva, the owners of the site and the main backers of this project are really specialised in heritage and restoration. This commission is the antithesis of this in that it is for a structure of transience without there being any emphasis on durable, traditional materials or fine craftsmanship. On the other hand it resonates in that the direct working of materials and the expression of much more than pure function in a structure harks back to a generally prouder era.

  • What sort of architects, designers and artists are you hoping will apply?

I hope it will attract those who want a design freedom and/or a construction challenge that they may have found difficult to engage in the regulatory and commercially constrained environment in which most of us are obliged to operate. The manifesto is one of de-alienation through direct engagement in design and production that becomes possible through the small scale of the project. I don’t expect Grimshaw turning up with his welding mask under his arm - although he is most welcome if he is so inclined.

  • What are your plans for future Antepavilion commissions and will architects be procured the same way?

This is certainly not a recruitment exercise. It is part of the concept of the commission that it is organic and evolutionary. If some greater focus than the loose and slightly anarchic brief we have started with in fact seems likely to better serve the objectives I have talked about above there is certainly no reason why it can’t change accordingly.

  • Are there any other similar temporary rooftop pavilion projects you have been impressed by?

I am not very erudite when it comes to particular architectural movements or personal works. I am also not much of a contemporary architecture tourist. You’re more likely to find me in Ephesus or Thebes than hunting down the works of current or recent starchitects. So if I’m unknowingly operating within an established architectural genre someone better tell me. I’m most likely to be attracted to the proposal that I can’t easily relate to anything I’ve seen before.




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