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'Small projects are a labour of love'

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Small projects can make a big impact and lay the foundations for new business, says Christine Murray

‘Small projects are a labour of love,’ said AJ Small Projects judge Alison Brooks at our launch event last year. Presenting her early experimental work, the Stirling Prize-winning architect admitted that while small projects don’t always make a profit, ‘they become a proof of what you can achieve.’

In this week’s magazine, we present 12 labours of love, the first half of the 24-strong shortlist of projects completed for £250,000 or less contending for this year’s AJ Small Projects awards.

The calibre of the work submitted to the contest makes this a stand-out year. Rory Olcayto described the challenge of selecting 24 schemes from the 229 entries. But the most difficult task is still ahead for the Small Projects jury: Brooks will join developer Martyn Evans, creative director of Cathedral Properties, quantity surveyor John Boxall of Jackson Coles, sales and marketing director Paul Reed of Marley Eternit, sustainability editor Hattie Hartman and me to pick the winners of this year’s awards.

On 30 January, the shortlisted architects will present their work to the jury in a speed crit. The winners will be chosen on the day and the top prize and sustainability award will be presented over celebratory drinks that same evening at New London Architecture in The Building Centre, London, at the exclusive launch party for the Small Projects exhibition (which opens to the public on 31 January).

At the launch event last year, Ben Adams also spoke of the importance of making small projects count. ‘If you are going to work on small projects, then they have to be as high-profile as possible,’ Adams said. Works like Carmody Groarke’s Filling Station, David Kohn’s Room for London or Studio Weave’s Palace of Pillars are examples of how small projects can get a lot of attention. Every Small Projects entry was posted in the AJ Buildings Library, and the most visited small projects have already had thousands of visits. The most popular project, Squitchey Lane, by Matthew Clay Architects, has had 3,000 views, a top prize, even if it didn’t make the official shortlist of 24.

This year’s Small Projects are proof positive that design excellence is alive and well, despite the challenging economic climate. May they be the foundations of a vibrant future for the profession, and long may it thrive.

  • AJ Small Projects is sponsored by Marley Eternit. An exhibition of all 24 shortlisted projects opens 31 January at New London Architecture, The Building Centre, 26 Store Street, London WC1.

Download this week’s iPad edition for free - featuring the first 12 schemes shortlisted for the AJ Small Projects Awards.

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