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Sarah Wigglesworth wins Soar Island contest

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Sarah Wigglesworth Architects (SWA) has won the RIBA-organised competition to regenerate Soar Island in Leicester

The practice was up against London-based drummond.lawlor and Ash Sakula, Gutiérrez-De la Fuente Arquitectos from Spain and Germany’s Kraft.Raum in the contest for the derelict island site.

Wigglesworth’s mixed-use scheme proposed low-impact living, self-build homes and spaces for small businesses alongside open space and woodland.

According to the judges, the scheme stood out by ‘integrating heritage, landscape, ecology, and architecture together with a range of activities that could draw people to the site and create a strong identity for the riverside area’.

Backed by Leicester City Council, the RIBA-run contest sought proposals to revitalise the islet in the middle of the River Soar which is currently home to a viewing platform and a cement works.

The council hoped the ideas competition would inspire developers to come forward with their own proposals.

Commenting on the winning scheme,  Leicester city mayor Peter Soulsby, said: ‘The competition certainly generated interest in our Waterside plans and inspired some extraordinarily creative ideas, with architects from as far away as Hong Kong and the USA keen to make suggestions for the site.

‘There was plenty of imagination and creative thinking in SWA’s proposals, although clearly it would be the more commercially deliverable elements that could play a part in our vision for Soar Island.

‘While the final scheme will be at the discretion of the developer who ultimately takes on this site, it’s possible that some of SWA’s pioneering ideas – such as self-build homes and workspaces – could work on a site like this.’

In a statement, SWA – which won a £5,000 top prize – said: ‘The vision for our project, which combines housing, work and leisure activities, is for a new city quarter set apart but connected to the town.

‘It proposes an environment where wildlife and humans coexist in a sustainable landscape surrounded by water, supported by an economy based on low-impact living and working. We are delighted to have been selected as winner for the Soar Island competition.’

A rival scheme by drummond.lawlor – inspired by the Tiber Island in Rome – was highly commended by the judging panel.

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