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Competition to find answer to 21st-century urban living

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Moren Greenhalgh Architects won planning permission this week for this colourful seven-storey block of 33 flats opposite the Royal Pavilion in Brighton. The scheme includes penthouses, some with grass roofs, a red-brick base, ochre fins, indigo canopies set against white stucco and glass facades. It passed the close scrutiny of English Heritage and Royal Fine Art Commission. The West London-based practice is taking part in Open Practice (see page 20).

Developer Urban Splash, the riba and English Partnerships, this week launched an international competition to design modern housing for an inner-city Manchester site. The winner gets to pocket £20,000 and Urban Splash intends to negotiate fees, build the design and perhaps mass-produce it as an answer to twenty-first-century urban living.

The two-stage competition is to design contemporary new-build housing at Britannia Basin in the Castlefield region of the city in order to create 'a new housing type' capable of mass production. The developer wants architects to use modern building techniques replicable by volume house builders on suburban sites, at a 'realistic budget' preferably lower than £600/m2.

Urban Splash believes that there is demand for a new product which looks forward, rather than back to pastiche. To be run by the riba competitions office, the brownfield competition also requires 'creative solutions' to the internal planning of flats to offer maximum flexibility of layout and a high degree of energy efficiency and security.

Architects with track records in the area will look at designing up to 100 mostly two-bed flats on the canalside industrial site. The flats will range in size from 60m2 to 100m2, with a maximum penthouse size of 250m2.

However, although Urban Splash says in the competition details that it intends to build the winning scheme, it reserves the right not to, and stresses that if it pays out fees, it will take the copyright of the scheme. It has the right to use the design elsewhere at an agreed fee.

Another point in the blurb is that although the top prize is £20,000, it is actually an advance on professional fees if the developer chooses to commission the winner. Six honoraria of £2000 will be paid to shortlisted practices.

Entries will be judged by Urban Splash chairman Tom Bloxham and managing director and architect Jonathan Falkingham, along with Andrew Taylor of Patel Taylor, Hugh Pearman of the Sunday Times, Manchester City Council leader Richard Leese, Countryside Properties' Alan Cherry, David Lunts, the new chief executive of the Prince of Wales's Architecture Foundation, and aj editor Paul Finch. Bloxham said: 'Architects design museums, offices, restaurants and shops that we all frequent but not the new houses many of us live in. Urban Splash wants to do something about that.'

The competition is anonymous, costs £50 to enter and the deadline for submissions is 1 February. Enquiries, tel: 0113234 1335.

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