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Footprint's pick of AJ Small Projects 2015

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Which of the 24 shortlisted schemes could be in the running for this year’s Small Projects Sustainability Award?

This year marks 20 years of AJ Small Projects. Certain types of projects crop up year after year: rear extensions, garden studios, temporary structures, timber pavilions and an art installation or two. A few lovely one-offs always steal the limelight, such as this year’s flat refurbishment by MASAA which doubles as a practice space for circus arts, and Flanagan Lawrence’s beachfront acoustic shell.

But this year must be a first for a small project that reuses a small project from a previous year. This feature alone makes it an obvious candidate for the annual AJ Small Projects sustainability prize, which will be awarded by the jury on our judging day on 18 March.

Carmody Groarke’s temporary Maggie’s Centre in Liverpool reuses the London Dresser, originally commissioned by the mayor of London for the Olympic Games and designed by the Studio of Cinematic Architecture with students from the University of Westminster. An 11m-long glazed picture window which previously housed playful red models of London’s architectural landmarks now offers cancer patients and their carers carefully framed views of open spaces on the Clatterbridge Hospital campus.

But it’s not just the reuse of the London Dresser that earns this project sustainability plaudits. Assembled in just three months, the Liverpool Maggie’s combines the London Dresser with six McAlpine site huts to form a series of indoor spaces interspersed with outdoor courtyards. The entirety is wrapped in a scalloped fibre-glass screen – to be reclaimed by the manufacturer at the end of its life – reminiscent of the practice’s Filling Station at King’s Cross. End of stock items from Travis Perkins complete the interior. Carmody Groarke associate Lewis Kinneir comments: ‘We didn’t go out there to be sustainable. It’s an attitude, but you don’t see it. The driver was that the project has a finite time period.’

RCKa’s Enfield Business Centre is another strong candidate to scoop the sustainability award, as are, inevitably, several of the timber pavilions. This year’s batch of timber structures shows an astonishing range: from a £15,000 student-built stargazing pavilion in Northumberland to a market hall in Slovenia (also student work) to my personal favourite, Constellations Bar in Liverpool’s Baltic Triangle. A green oak canopy with a cheerful asymmetric gable echoes the roof form of an adjacent warehouse, and transforms a disused industrial yard into an outdoor cultural venue and bar.

While these are my pick of this year’s bunch, they do not comprise a shortlist for the Sustainability Award. All 24 shortlisted projects are contenders for the award on judging day. Come prepared to make your pitch!

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