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Retail warehouse developments have played an increasingly important part in the consumer market over the past two decades, but their significance has not resulted in a commensurate amount of architectural attention.

A competition, organised in association with the AJ and sponsored by four key industrial players, challenged students to redress the balance, which they did with gusto.

Here, we present the best of their ideas.

Students at RIBAvalidated UK schools of architecture were invited to enter the competition, to design a large retail-led mixed-use development for a specified brownfi eld site with a former industrial use. The site is on the edge of a town centre, and is readily accessed by a motorway and dual carriageway. It is also close to a railway station and next to the town's park-and-ride car park. Entrants were asked to consider changing customer demographics, environmental strategies, orientation and mixed uses. They were given minimum requirements for the varying elements of accommodation and quite specific requirements for the roof. The brief also made it clear that the judges were looking for innovative thinking - something that they certainly received.


TUTORS: NEIL SPILLER AND PHIL WATSON The winning pair came up with an entirely new concept: the B&Q Academy Store, a state-of-the-art shop that will offer a new, relevant and exciting experience for both homeowners and professionals.

With a public theatre, mezzanine restaurant, ideas store and enterprise centre, the B&Q Academy will become the building block for a new generation of plumbers, electricians, roofers, homeowners and DIY enthusiasts.

At the entrance to the store are the enterprise 'units', designed for start-up 'graduates' of the academy. They will offer an affordable office base for emerging businesses and give them all the advantages of having the world's largest DIY store on their doorstep.

The enterprise centre at the heart of the store will enable aspiring trade professionals to get the feel of what the cut and thrust of trade is all about. B&Q certification will become a benchmark for trade quality, value and trust.

Customers will be free to participate in the daily professional demonstrations or take advice from the resident trainees, who may in turn be rewarded with a job.

Standardised pallet-racking systems are easily accommodated in the retail area. At no point does the roof go below 6.5m, providing vast stock-storage facilities above the retail-level shelving. Each bay is designed to accommodate three 2.5m-wide racks or two 4.5m-wide racks, including trolley clearance.

The judges praised the highly creative idea, the customer focus and good graphics, and the fact that the dramatic roof form was achievable.

Chair Paul Finch said: 'This is the B&Q I'd like to visit.'


TUTORS: DOMINIC WILKINSON, TOM JEFFERIES AND NEIL SWANSON This was the project that most took into account the sloping site specified in the brief, placing the car park under the warehouse instead of around it. It also put the builders' yard and storage at the top of the site, allowing space for turning vehicles at the top of the hill.

The building's bright appearance is part of a policy to link the signage on the building to website icons. Other touches include a coffee shop that opens on to a garden centre, so that chairs spill out, enlivening the space.

The judges saw the scheme as simple, coherent and practical, adapting B&Q's current strategy of building with boxes by floating these boxes above the car park. They believed that it would work operationally, and that it made great use of the site.


TUTOR: TOM JEFFERIES This project took an intelligent approach to containerisation, using shipping containers for storage. It differentiated clearly between a central core and a cluster of activities surrounding it, and used a rolling gantry for access to the racking.

The judges felt it was very practical operationally, and that it would work well on a very urban site.


TUTORS: TOM JEFFERIES AND DOMINIC WILKINSON This design inverted the usual concept of a building surrounded by car parking, by placing the parking at the centre, surrounding it with the public realm. The underlying principle is that, although the building should be fully car accessible, the pedestrian should rule. On less busy weekdays, the parking space could also host community activities. The judges said the scheme was full of ideas, and praised the relationship with adjacent houses.

JUDGES Paul Finch, editor, The Architectural Review (chair) Terry Hartwell, group property director, Kingfisher Simon Borthwick, B&Q Paul Mitchell, director, The Harris Partnership Tom Ogilvie, managing director, Brett Martin Daylight Systems Simon Allford, partner, Allford Hall Monaghan Morris Richard Saxon, director, BDP Paul Hodgkinson, chairman and chief executive, Simons Group Peter Wilks, commercial director, Corus Colours Brian Watson, commercial director, CA Building Products CA BUILDING PRODUCTS CA Building Products' core business is the metal building envelope. Since 1983, the company has been developing innovative, high-quality roof and cladding solutions.

Their flagship system, Twin-Therm, is widely acknowledged as the market leader and is the specification of choice for clients, backed by a range of metal buildingenvelope systems including the MR-24 and River-Therm Standing Seam Solutions, Trimo-Therm Rock-Fibre Insulated Panels and Execa Architectural Panel Systems.

Comprehensive technical support includes advice on thermal performance, airtightness, non-fragility, fire resistance and compliance with Building Regulations ADL2.

B&QB&Q is the UK's leading DIY and garden centre retailer, offering more than 45,000 home improvement and garden products for the homemaker, DIY enthusiast and professional.

B&Q is the number one DIY retailer in Europe and the third largest in the world, with more than 100 stores internationally, including B&Q Beijing, which is the largest B&Q store in the world.

B&Q was founded by Richard Block and David Quayle in 1969 and opened its first store in Portswood, Southampton. It is now part of the Kingfisher Group, which operates 599 stores in Europe and Asia.

Since 1990 B&Q has taken a positive approach to the challenges that social responsibility presents and has developed solutions that not only address its environmental and social impacts but also add value to its business and reputation.

BRETT MARTIN Brett Martin Daylight Systems, the UK's leading rooflight manufacturer, specialises in the provision of daylight through the roof, creating practical, effective rooflights that meet all energy and safety requirements while remaining simple to install, aesthetically pleasing and offering a useful service life.

Rooflights provide up to three times more light than the same area of vertical glazing and allow a more even distribution of light. As well as offering the most extensive and innovative in-plane rooflight range in GRP and polycarbonate, Brett Martin Daylight Systems also manufactures comprehensive ranges of vault, pitched and dome rooflights. Most of the company's rooflights are manufactured to specific customer specifications, simplifying installation and saving time on site.

Brett Martin has worked in partnership with CA Roofing and B&Q for a number of years to provide a bright, naturally lit shopping environment.

CORUS The Colorcoat brand provides the recognised mark of quality and metal envelope expertise from Corus. In more than 40 years of manufacturing pre-finished steel products, Corus has worked in partnership with a small number of innovative paint companies to develop technically leading products and services.

These have extended the aesthetics and performance of pre-finished steel products and are supplied to the leading manufacturors of roof and wall cladding systems in the UK and Ireland. The Colorcoat brand includes the most specified pre-finished steel in Europe, Colorcoat HPS200. Developed and enhanced in close collaboration with the market, Colorcoat HPS200 offers best guaranteed performance, peace of mind and provides a perfect illustration of Corus innovation in action.

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