Last summer, 1,800 architects and designers downloaded the competition details for the upgrading of the area known as St Margaret's Loop in East Grinstead, West Sussex.
The competition brief to regenerate a derelict railway line in the centre of the town was first launched in The Architects' Journal (10.6.04) and has elicited an international response.
The simple client requirement for a cycletrack linking existing pedestrian networks in order to bring a prominent town centre woodland area - a site that has been effectively neglected for some 40 years - back into the public domain, required the entrants to propose enabling works that would fund the core scheme.
Thus, the open brief required just two pages of A3 scheme drawings and A4 written substantiation. To assist in the assessment, the judges examined the design concept, as well as its feasibility in terms of concept viability, buildability and design quality. This month, five shortlisted schemes were put on display at the town's library and people from the local community were invited to pass judgement. The shortlisted schemes are outlined here. As they say on occasions like this, the judging was very close and the decisions were not unanimous, but there has to be one winner.
Winner - £5,000 prize Ash Sakula Architects Architect's comments 'St Margaret's Loop is a magical place, a haven of raw nature in the midst of some fairly undistinguished sub-urbanity? Our approach to the competition is to make a new dramatic hub centred on the railway? (a hotel that) rather than being a stack of bedrooms, provide(s) flexible serviced spaces? housed in a robust, long-lasting structure in the form of a sweeping curve hovering over the existing carpark and forming a gateway to the virgin nature behind.'
Judges' comments 'A bold architectural statement and a good attempt to address the image of the town.
Excellent presentation: the overall strategy is very clear, practicable and well argued.'
Joint runner-up - £1,000 Nicolas Tye Architects Architect's comments 'We propose to create a new focus point: a meeting place 'piazza' at the southernmost point of the site where cyclists and pedestrians meet (combined with) a market place, youth centre, children's park, ecology centre and waterpark.'
Judges' comments 'Solid and achievable. A sensible response.'
Joint runner-up - £1,000 Nigel Craddock Architects Architect's comments 'The structure plan identifies East Grinstead as a town that may expand to accommodate a further 2,500 dwellings by the year 2016. (Our) proposal utilises this dwelling demand as a vehicle to suggest an exemplary housing type, to act as a catalyst to inform other residential developments throughout the county.'
Judges' comments 'This shows a close alignment with the town council's overall vision and a sensitive ecological treatment.'
Highly commended Milk Architecture and Design Architect's comments 'The site is perfect for white-water sports:
the gentle fall of the site, the pre-formed cutting, the length and curve of the site and its location? A modern and safe facility can be designed to include users of all skills and abilities.'
Judges' comments 'I love this idea: ingenious and attractive. Difficult to comment on the viability although a clear 'business plan' approach has been adopted? but by far the most imaginative.'
Highly commended Hinton Cook Architects Architect's comments 'The site suggests that any development, while necessary, should be of the residential type? The houses have been designed for minimal impact on the site.'
Judges' comments The costings are poor but the scheme is terrific. A very simple concept that leaves the woodland scene virtually undisturbed.'