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Gillespie Yunnie wins AJ Small Projects 2014 Sustainability Award

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A staircase at Royal William Yard in Plymouth has been crowned the most sustainable scheme in this year’s AJ Small Projects Awards

Gillespie Yunnie Architects took home the £1,000 AJ Small Projects Sustainability Prize for the £250,000 project which links the defensive western end of the Royal William Yard to the South West Coast path above the site.

The judging panel, chaired by AJ acting editor Rory Olcayto and featuring sustainability editor Hattie Hartman, Sam Jacob of Sam Jacob Studio, Derwent’s Simon Silver, Vicky Legrove of Jackson Coles and Paul Reed from competition sponsor Marley Eternit, were impressed by the architect’s ‘contribution to the public realm’.

The AJ’s acting editor and chair of the judging panel Rory Olcayto said: ‘It reinvents what we think sustainable architecture actually is, creating the final link in a coastal route. It’s muscular. It’s fun.’

AJ sustainability editor Hattie Hartman, added: ”The project displays fantastic connectivity in urban design terms. It makes sense of the Great Royal William Yard.’

The top prize was awarded to Chris Dyson Architects for 13 Wapping Pierhead.

The AJ Small Projects Awards has been sponsored by Marley Eternit for four years running. An exhibition of all the 24 shortlisted schemes will take place at the NLA Building Centre in London form the 20th March 2014.

All the entries to the awards can be seen in the AJ Buildings Library, complete with photographs, drawings and details.

Last year the sustainability award was won by Kilburn Nightingale Architects for its £37,145 visitor centre in the Ruwenzori Mountains of Uganda.

Gillespie Yunnie

Description of Gillespie Yunnie Architects’ Royal William Yard Staircase

The stair links the defensive western end of the Royal William Yard to the South West Coast path above the site. The Royal William Yard was designed by Sir John Rennie to supply the entire Royal Navy Fleet with beer, rum, ships biscuits and cured meat. Built between 1826 and 1831 it was used continually by the Navy until the 1990’s when it closed and has since been subject to one of the largest regeneration programmes in the South West.

The grade one-listed Royal William Yard has always been a dead end due to it’s naturally defensive nature and peninsular location, so the staircase linking the west end of the Yard with the open green space of the peninsular above has always been a key part of the regeneration masterplan, to allow residents to access the park and historic battlements at the top of the high retaining wall, and allow walkers to continue along the Coast Path route via a dramatic piece of architecture.

From the Yard, the stair is a dark solid mass, snug against the historic retaining wall, and the journey, hidden by the high solid sides, is only apparent as you begin to climb the stair, with the concealed glass viewing platform and panoramic views over the Tamar Estuary across to Cornwall being concealed until the last minute. From the park above, you first have to find the entrance, housed within a sunken ruin of an old military store. A steel ‘portal’ is cut through the huge wall marking the start of the journey, and your first view opens up before you, as you descend down the cantilevered upper flight. At night it changes again, using concealed LED ribbon lights beneath the handrail to wash the entire inner surfaces with an ever changing river of colour, a bit of fun, and brightness in the otherwise dark, hard context of the old military site, and reminiscent of seaside promenades across the country.

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