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UK misses out on Europan 2013

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World’s largest housing design competition fails to attract a single entry from from the United Kingdom

housing The UK is to miss out on Europan after developers and councils once again failed to put forward a single site for the world’s largest housing design competition.

Covering more than 20 countries in Europe, the biennial open-anonymous contest provides design teams under 40 years old an opportunity to design large-scale urban housing projects.

Despite massive success on the Continent over the past two decades, the innovative contest aimed at emerging architects has repeatedly failed to shake up housebuilding in this country.

Rotterdam-based BIQ Architects’ 2006 Fazakerley affordable housing scheme in Liverpool is thought to be the UK’s only Europan-winning project to reach fruition.

CABE supported the UK’s last Europan foray in 2008, promising the winning schemes, unlike in previous years, would be delivered.

The commission helped select three winners – a scheme for a hillside plot in Sheffield by North London-based practice Prewett Bizley Architects; a project in Milton Keynes by Tom Russell Architects; and proposals for a riverside site in Stoke-on-Trent by RCKa (pictured).

All three of the innovative residential schemes have yet to be built and the commission was unable to find any sites or project backers for the subsequent Europan 10 ‘session’ in 2010. As a result it withdrew its support for Europan marking the end of the UK’s involvement.

RCKa director Tim Riley said the lack of UK sites this year showed ‘an increasing lack of faith in architects to deliver innovative housing design in the UK.’

Riley blamed current procurement methods for prohibiting creativity and stifling emerging design talent. He said: ‘Design competitions provide an opportunity for innovation, but are erroneously seen as being risky by procuring bodies, whereas the opposite is true – as is evident in the large number which go on to receive design awards.’

Witherford Watson Mann won three Europan projects but the furthest to progress was a Brent housing scheme which achieved outline consent before the recession hit and has since stalled.

‘I don’t know why Europan doesn’t work in Britain so well,’ said Stephen Witherford of the studio. ‘It is still the only competition I am aware of that focuses on challenging urban themes [but] whether it does or doesn’t get built is an issue.’

A spokesperson for the contest said: ‘Europan 12 will be launched on Monday 18 March. The new web site for Europan 12 will be open this same day. And unfortunately there are still no English sites for [the next] session.’




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