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AJ/Otis Student Architecture Competition

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A new headquarters for

the Greater London Authority

This year's aj/Otis competition, for registered students in uk schools of architecture, took a 'live' subject as its theme - the requirement for a new home for the mayor of London, to be elected in spring next year, and the new legislative body which will oversee the future of the capital, the Greater London Authority. The brief was broadly the same as the one for the developer/architect competition run by the government, comprising a mix of public spaces, administrative offices, mayor's parlour and so on.

In view of the current interest in the location of buildings close to public-transport nodes, the brief also called for schemes to be located within 200m of an existing tube station, thereby allowing use of Otis Trav-o-lators as well as escalators and lifts.

In total, the building was required to provide a net useable area of 12,000m2 with an assembly chamber for 24 elected members plus public and media; office space for 400 in a variety of space sizes; public facilities including exhibition space, meeting areas, a bar/cafe, and an external public space; a 'mayor's parlour'; parking for a maximum of 30 vehicles; cycle parking; and full disabled access. Entrants were allowed a choice of location, and were free to demolish or adapt any building they wished.

The judging was carried out at the end of August by Cedric Price (chairman), teacher and aj columnist Katherine Shonfield, Chris Bowler of Otis, and Paul Finch. With more than 30 entries to review, the judges were impressed by the breadth of the ideas on display, and by the prodigious amounts of work undertaken by many of the competitors, with up to eight A1 boards allowed. The competition was judged courtesy of Alan Baxter Associates in the firm's gallery space in Smithfield.

By lunchtime we had managed a rough cut to achieve about a dozen designs, all of which had merits. In the end, the choice of a winner was reached easily, largely because of the simplicity and clarity of a scheme which takes an existing London icon, Centre Point, and neatly incorporates the required elements into the design. It was more difficult to decide on the other prize-winners, and in the end the decision was taken to award joint second prizes rather than attempt to distinguish between two very different schemes, one of which extended the whole idea of the competition to produce a quite new view of how London should be analysed, the other suggesting a visionary new look and use for the entire length of Oxford Street. A commended scheme was picked for its proposition about traffic. Other schemes that caught the judges' eyes are illustrated - many more could have been.

Paul Finch



First prize (£2,500) - Taeko Matsumoto, University of North London

This ingenious entry makes maximum use of Centre Point, one of London's best-known and most central sites. Once chosen, the logic looks impeccable: it re-uses a landmark which has never had the satisfactory public occupant it deserves; it is on top of a tube station; it can be seen from all over London; and most important it can easily be adapted, as the design shows. From the clarity of the below-ground diagram to the resolution of access and split of functions, this coherent approach well deserves its first prize.



Joint second prize (£1250) - Filip Visnjic, University of Westminster

This dramatic intervention in Oxford Street, equally dramatically presented, envisages a fourth dimension to the existing street, and the incorporation of new elements/facilities sponsored by existing commercial companies located there. Thus Selfridges pays for the police enforcement department since both bodies represent stability and authority; Boots sponsors the health department, and Top Shop is mentor for the media. The logic is taken to an electoral extreme: voting on current and future issues in London would take place in a shop.

Joint second prize (£1250) - Ole Scheeren and Henrik Rothe, Architectural Association

A complex proposal based on identifying diverse sites throughout London which act as 'fixpoints' separating and connecting the multiple activities of a city hall. Empty office space in London's seven tallest buildings is leased for the gla, while communications screens are seen across the city providing information on what the authority is doing. The mayor moves between locations, 'crossing all territories, mediating and connecting the heterogeneous particles of the system'. The scheme attempts to integrate the citizen as private individual and public actor, through his or her response to the display of the processes of city government.



Commended - Benny Tang, University of Westminster

Using the concept of the tube loosely (in fact, the scheme is based on the Poplar station of the Docklands Light Railway), this scheme comprises 28 structures which are divided either side of the A1261 and can move from side to side. Debates take place in a structure formed when all the elements link to form a tunnel-like structure. Motorists would drive through the underbelly, with images projected on screens located on the underside of the structures.

Sally Pearce, University of Westminster

The box, the icon of the car-oriented city, is cloned to 'infiltrate, re-identify and individualise the London assembly' as a series of secure but individual spaces, stylised, generated and controlled. The evolving shape of the city environment is given definition by the ethos of out- of-town shopping - in stark contrast to the urban ideal.

Celine Condorelli and Guy Mannes Abott

An intriguing investigation into 'the most basic unit for the gla' - the urban minute, or the distance that can be covered in 60 seconds. The analysis looks at Euston Road (horizontal travel through vertical space) and at how different systems of orientation work, and how the 'minute' separating Euston Square from Great Portland Street can be shown in section. The combination of drawings can be used to propose the true boundary of the new gla.

Jason Ahmed, University of Westminster

Hanover Square is covered with an air-cushioned roof, providing the location and backdrop for the television talk show, gla Today. The complex acts as a marker of the era in which terrestrial television makes for way for digital and other interactive technologies. Plug-in office space is provided for GLA staff, while special events take place as do public demonstrations in the 'civic' space. The protective canopy is the new icon for the gla.

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