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In addition to sponsoring 40 Under 40, Corus has created a special award for the best use of steel in the built environment, which goes to Piercy Conner. The jury was impressed by the practice's use of steel across a range of projects, including its widely published microflat, the 'clip-on'housing extensions featured on pages 168-169, and the conversion of a Martello tower - which is featured here and in the working detail overleaf.

'It's difficult to pick just one entry, to single out among 40 others one practice that has shown a particular finesse in its handling of a particular material, but that's what we set out to do, ' says Matthew Teague of Corus. 'We were looking for an understanding of the qualities of steel and a demonstration of its appropriate use in conjunction with other materials. We were seeking real examples of considered, technically adept use. Sustainability and the understanding of that word, with its nuances and subtlety, are important. How do you transport steel to site in an economical way? How do you build with it? What do you do with it at the end of the building's life? And, of course, we wanted someone who understood the aesthetics of steel.' Piercy Conner's scheme for the conversion of a Martello tower on the Suffolk coast into a dwelling for a private client is an intelligent instance of steel being used to breathe new life into an existing building. It also demonstrates that steel can be appropriate to a historic structure and in a rural setting; the tower is a scheduled ancient monument and stands in an area of outstanding natural beauty.

The scheme has won the support of English Heritage.

A spokesperson said: 'We believe it has the potential to be an exemplary and unique conversion of this type of building and will furthermore result in a sensitive project that also respects the setting of the building.' The new roof, a lightweight structure constructed of laminated plywood and steel, contrasts with the vast bulk of the existing walls, which are up to 3m thick at the base. A detailed three-dimensional computer model designed by Piercy Conner allowed the architect to collaborate with Tim Lucas of Price & Myers 3D Engineering on the development of the design.

In order to minimise the impact on the historic fabric, the new roof floats above the existing parapet, supported by five V-shaped columns anchored into the brickwork. Living and dining spaces are contained within the new roof space and open on to a clover-leaf shaped terrace, which was originally used for cannon and rifle emplacements. The roof is set back from the walls to minimise its visual impact to passers-by and rises to a high point at the east in order to take advantage of the sea view. A 700mmdeep skirt of frameless curved glass below the roof expresses the distinction between the old and new elements, as well as providing 360º views of landscape and sea.

The Corus Special Award was judged by Matthew Teague of Corus, AJ editor Isabel Allen, Will Alsop of Alsop Design, professor Ray Ogden of the Steel Construction Institute and Oxford Brookes University and Dr Mark Lawson of the Steel Construction Institute and University of Surrey

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