An international student contest – judged by Malcolm Reading – is seeking retrofit ideas for the historic Château de la Tour d’Aigues in southern France
The annual Prix W competition – organised by the Wilmotte Foundation and now in its ninth year – invites students and anyone who graduated from architecture schools in the UK, EU, Switzerland and Russia after 1 January 2017 to reimagine the ruined French castle as a new centre for wine and gastronomy.
Judges include competition-organiser Malcolm Reading – architect, chair of Malcolm Reading Consultants and chair of the UNESCO Tower of London World Heritage Site Consultative Committee. The overall winner will receive €8,000. Selected submissions will also be exhibited inside the foundation’s gallery during the Venice Architectural Biennale later this year.
Commenting on this year’s brief, Reading said: ‘Students and recent graduates are invited to rethink the Château de La Tour-d’Aigues and transform it into a unique space dedicated to wine and gastronomy, synthesising the insertion of new architecture into the existing layers – a philosophy that [the foundation’s founder, architect] Jean-Michel Wilmotte, calls ‘architectural grafting’.
‘The Château should become an appealing, contemporary gathering place that is an exemplar of responsible and sustainable design – whilst also continuing to convey the site’s tangible and intangible heritage. This is a stunning location with a captivating history – there should be no shortage of inspiration for competitors.’
The Paris-based Wilmotte Foundation was set up in 2005 to support young architects and artists in the earliest stages of their careers. Its annual Prix W contest aims to promote new thinking around innovation and heritage.
The Château de la Tour d’Aigues was created in the 16th century close to the Luberon mountains in the wine-producing Vaucluse area of France. The building was destroyed by fire in the late 18th century and is now administered by the local council.
This year’s competition seeks ideas to create a 5,000m²-to-7,500m complex intended to reflect the building’s gastronomic heritage while also promoting sustainable innovation in the fields of dining, agriculture and entertainment. Proposals may include a market, culinary school, museum, theatre, garden or hotel.
Schemes will be judged on their response to the site, originality and creativity, quality of urban and architectural ideas, quality of rendering, and clarity of proposition.
The overall winner will receive an €8,000 prize while there will be a second prize of €6,000 and third prize of €3,000.
The registration deadline is 15 March and submissions are due by 1 April.
How to apply
Malcolm Reading, chair of Malcolm Reading Consultants and Prix W jury member
Why have you joined the jury for this year’s Prix W prize?
The Prix W is the brainchild of the Wilmotte Foundation, an organisation committed to supporting up-and-coming architects as they embark upon the first stages of their careers. This well-run competition is a fantastic opportunity for exceptional student architects to be recognised; to have their work assessed by a jury of international experts from a range of fields, from conservation to contemporary architecture. Successful competitors will also be exhibited at the Venice Biennale 2020 in the Wilmotte Foundation’s gallery, and their designs will be published in a book dedicated to the award.
The Prix W also promotes celebrated French architect Jean-Michel Wilmotte’s philosophy of balance in adding new uses to old buildings. This is a great way to encourage young architects to consider how existing buildings can be adapted and renewed to meet the needs of modern life, without simply demolishing them and losing all that embedded carbon.
What would you like to see in proposals for the Château de la Tour d’Aigues?
Originality, innovation and imagination will be essential to any successful design. Students and recent graduates are invited to rethink the Château de La Tour-d’Aigues and transform it into a unique space dedicated to wine and gastronomy, synthesising the insertion of new architecture into the existing layers – a philosophy that Jean-Michel Wilmotte calls ‘architectural grafting’.
The Château should become an appealing, contemporary gathering place that is an exemplar of responsible and sustainable design – whilst also continuing to convey the site’s tangible and intangible heritage. This is a stunning location with a captivating history – there should be no shortage of inspiration for competitors.
What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?
We hope that students at all stages in their studies will consider applying. This award is interesting as it focuses on a real-world project within a challenging context – it would be fascinating to see the ideas proposed by such a varied range of competitors.
The Prix W is open to students and recent graduates from architecture schools from across the UK, European Union, Switzerland and Russia. ‘Student’ embraces any student at an architecture school, from first grade to diploma, and competitors can choose to enter individually or as a team of two.
What is the future of student and ideas only competitions?
The Wilmotte Foundation is now embarking on its ninth award dedicated to student architects. The Prix W has widespread support and is an excellent opportunity for young professionals to get noticed. It is an extraordinary experience for any architect to show their work at the Venice Biennale – for a student, this would be a fantastic boost, as well as a great deal of fun. The award is also completely free to enter – making it the perfect chance for students to get creative, test ideas and enjoy designing for this incredible location.