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AJ Specification Awards 2020 winners revealed

Index ajsa 2020
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The AJ is delighted to announce the winners in the seven categories of the AJ Specification Awards 2020

The awards, now in their second year, celebrate outstanding working relationships between UK architects, suppliers and manufacturers and the innovative and creative use of products and materials that results. It all adds up to a great showcase for successful projects, great buildings – and the best of architecture. 

Entries demonstrating the inspired use of materials and products – and the innovative and creative design solutions that incorporate them – were considered across categories including Fit-out and Interiors, Façades and Cladding, Roofing and Drainage and Landscape, in projects completed between March 2018 and September 2019. 

Our panels of judges looked for those entries that best demonstrated their response to the design challenge and how a product or material was used to meet or exceed this, as well as evidence of how the supplier or manufacturer and architect collaborated successfully on a project to achieve the best outcome.

We would like to thank all those who entered. The level and quality of design and innovation across sectors were exceptional, and demonstrate how the design, performance and qualitative look and feel of products and materials is at the heart of what makes great architecture. 

Our huge thanks go out to our judges for all their time, effort and support during these Awards. 

Many congratulations to all the winners and shortlisted architects, manufacturers and suppliers – it is fantastic to be able to give your work the attention it deserves.

 

Ajsa 2020 brick1

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The Interlock, by Bureau de Change with Forterra

The judges were impressed by the way this new five-storey mixed-use development by architect Bureau de Change was drawn out. The level of 3D modelling and technical development demonstrated was deemed extraordinary. Taking a basic component – the brick – the architects, along with Forterra, were able to push the material very hard to create a bespoke façade made up of 5,000 new bricks, laid twisting like cogs.

Abandoning the traditional dimensions of the unit, the team established a collection of 44 different clay blocks in Staffordshire Blue Clay. By modelling them in 3D, each could be individually altered to meet structural and assembly requirements.

Behind the façade sit three new residential units, with a café and gallery at street level. At the rear, the building steps back as the storeys ascend, allowing a series of deep lightwells to bring light into the building.

‘The architects really understood where the money was best spent and made the most of the possibilities,’ said the judges. 

Project data
Location London W1
Completed November 2018
Came into use January 2019
Project cost £1.6 million

Judges
Duncan Blackmore, Arrant Land
David Finlay, Acanthus Clews Architects
David Illingworth, London Structures Lab
Teri Okoro, TOCA 

Shortlisted
Bureau de Change with Forterra The Interlock
HÛT with Petersen Tegl De Beauvoir Townhouse
jmarchitects with Wienerberger and Taylor Maxwell New Gorbals Health and Care Centre
Paul Archer Design with Ibstock Aperture House
Purcell with IG Masonry Support Defence and National Rehabilitation Centre
Wright & Wright with Szerelmey Library & Study Centre, St John’s College, Oxford

 

Ajsa 2020 colour1

Ajsa 2020 colour1

0 pool 6

Jiva Spa Wellness Centre, St James’ Court Hotel, by Emil Eve Architects with Clayworks

‘This project demonstrates an in-depth collaboration, with functional drivers giving the project a performative edge above its contenders,’ said the judges of the basement luxury spa at St James’ Court Hotel in London for Taj Hotels. 

The brief’s main challenge was understanding how to protect the porous and fragile existing brickwork of the Victorian building while finishing it in a way that would resist high temperatures and levels of humidity – all without creating a new lining. 

Large areas of the walls were therefore rebuilt using reclaimed brick, selected to match the original in size and texture, its pointing replaced with a breathable lime mortar. A Clayworks clay plaster pigmented in a deep black was applied to the interior walls to contrast with the Carrara marble and white terrazzo of the floors. 

Because it is unusual to apply clay onto a porous surface, extensive research and testing explored several solutions looking at putting a breathable, natural primer and sealant onto the hygroscopic clay plaster.

Project data
Location
London SW1
Completed January 2019
Came into use February 2019
Project cost £1.2 million

Judges
Christian Bocci, WestonWilliamson+Partners
Catherine Hennessy, ACME
Chris Rankin, rankinfraser landscape architecture
Murray Smith, Untitled Practice

Shortlisted
Cube Architecture and Design with Keim Mineral Paints Devonshire House Façade, Manhattan Apartments, Manchester
Emil Eve Architects with Clayworks Jiva Spa Wellness Centre, St James’ Court Hotel
Gaunt Francis Architects with Audley Group and Inside Design Co Audley Redwood Lodge

 

Ajsa 2020 doors1

Ajsa 2020 doors1

435 tombola exterior east facade 01 0

435 tombola exterior east facade 01 0

Tombola House, by Ryder Architecture with Saint-Gobain

The new headquarters for the tech-based gaming company in Sunderland had one main goal: to create the best possible working environment for its employees, maximising the site’s views over the River Wear and port. The feature-glazed east elevation could not have any internal or external solar shading systems, as that would have obstructed the building’s sensitive surrounding historic context.

SageGlass was introduced to the client as a technical response that would not compromise. Saint-Gobain’s electrochromic glass was selected for its ability to be linked to the building’s BMS system and to tint in response to the sun’s intensity. It runs on four settings of 60, 20, 6 and 1 per cent visible light transmission, meaning that the darkest state is almost opaque, yet maintains a view out.

Tombola House is one of the first projects in the UK to use this system and the judges thought it was great that ‘learning’ was identified as the first step in Ryder Architecture and Saint-Gobain’s collaboration. They commended the client for investing in the team’s vision.

The judges said: ‘A very nice building which provides a shopfront for Tombola, while the whole team can come together at its centre. A very well-planned scheme.’

Project data
Location Sunderland
Completed November 2018
Came into use January 2019
Project cost £8 million

Judges
Duncan Blackmore, Arrant Land
David Finlay, Acanthus Clews Architects
David Illingworth, London Structures Lab
Teri Okoro, TOCA 

Shortlisted
One-world design architects with ANS Global and Exact Architecural glazing Herondale Avenue
Pascall+Watson with Structura UK Heathrow Terminal 4
Ryder Architecture with Saint-Gobain Tombola House
Square Feet Architects with JFAN Thurlow Road

 

Ajsa 2020 facades1

Ajsa 2020 facades1

Pp uclh 0002 cpetercook 0

Pp uclh 0002 cpetercook 0

UCLH Phase 5, by Pilbrow & Partners with Michelmersh Brick Holdings

‘This is a standout project in how it addresses issues of its typology through inventive façade design,’ commented our judges on this latest phase of the hospital’s main campus regeneration, which provides a specialist Ear, Nose, and Dental facility. 

The sensitive site in the Bloomsbury Conservation Area sees this façade designed as a contemporary reinterpretation of the bays of adjacent 19th-century mansion blocks. The 248 prefabricated bays, each 5.5m wide, are composed as a hybrid of traditional hand-made bricks, precast concrete, aluminium and glass, with the building conceived as traditional hand-built construction but delivered as modular construction embracing Design for Manufacture and Assembly principles. Pilbrow & Partners worked with the manufacturers, specialist contractors and main contractor Mace to develop the façade module types around the building. ‘It shows a really impressive use of off-site and modern methods of construction,’ commented one of the judges. 

The design, with its perforated brickwork screens, brings natural light to waiting areas, which in many health buildings are windowless spaces at the core. It also provides external shading and thermal mass, contributing to the building’s environmental performance, designed to achieve a BREEAM Excellent accreditation. One judge summed it up thus: ‘Contextual but not a pastiche, this façade cleverly helps invert the plan-type, balancing modesty with views out, providing naturally-lit corridors for patients. It’s really thoughtful, good design.’

Project data
Location London WC1
Completed September 2019
Came into use October 2019
Project cost £70 million

Judges
Lyle Chrystie, Reiach and Hal
Tom Dawson, BGS Architects
Ana Moldavsky, Surman Weston

Shortlisted
Chris Dyson Architects with Tudor Roof Tiles 9 Borough Lane
Cottrell & Vermeulen with Wienerberger No.36 Storey’s Way, Churchill College, Cambridge
dn-a architects with Vincent Timber The Clubhouse
Pilbrow & Partners with Michelmersh Brick Holdings UCLH Phase 5
Squire & Partners with Fabrite The Frames

 

Ajsa 2020 fitout1

Ajsa 2020 fitout1

2. acer nethercott sports hall   faulknerbrowns architects   diane auckland

2. acer nethercott sports hall faulknerbrowns architects diane auckland

Acer Nethercott Sports Centre, by FaulknerBrowns Architects with ASB GlassFloor

As one judge put it: ‘This is an example of an innovative product used very well.’

The floor was installed as part of the University of Oxford’s new sports centre, which is designed to help support both its elite sporting tradition and provide facilities accessible to local residents. 

The centre’s LED-lit glass playing surface is the first sports hall application in the UK of the technology. Lines for a variety of sports can be switched on individually via a touch screen, allowing for multiple combinations of line marking within a small sports hall space, thus maximising its potential uses. 

FaulknerBrowns led the client and project team on international research visits to see the system in sports facilities around Europe, and engaged in product development and testing with ASB GlassFloor to produce a tailored specification providing an optimum sports surface for competition and community use. Following this, a number of product improvements were incorporated into the final system. ‘This project demonstrates really excellent collaboration between architect and supplier,’ said one judge.

The GlassFloor has an expected lifetime of 70 years and, with 95 per cent of its materials recyclable, the judges were struck by its ‘excellent durability and sustainability’. 

‘Fantastic feedback’ was reported from users.

Project data
Location Oxford
Completed May 2018
Came into use June 2018
Project cost £9 million

Judges
Lyle Chrystie, Reiach and Hall
Tom Dawson, BGS Architects
Ana Moldavsky, Surman Weston

Shortlisted
AHR Architects with VELUX Commercial UK Hydrographic Office
FaulknerBrowns Architects with ASB GlassFloor Acer Nethercott Sports Centre
HÛT with Clippings Berners Street
Michael Laird Architects with Optima KPMG Edinburgh

 

Ajsa 2020 landscaping1

Ajsa 2020 landscaping1

Graeme massie architects centenary square alex bland photographer aj spec 02

Graeme massie architects centenary square alex bland photographer aj spec 02

Redevelopment of Centenary Square, Birmingham, by Graeme Massie Architects with Hardscape and Valmont Stainton

This project was praised by judges as a fine example of ‘an innovative and successful piece of urban realm landscape’ and ‘great specification’. It sees Centenary Square updated and reinvented as a venue for cultural, civic and leisure events. 

Judges recognised the ‘exceptional’ level of co-ordination needed between design team, fabricator and end-users required during the project. This proved crucial in the management of complex site constraints, integrating multiple phases of construction, managing site traffic and phasing the project. As a result some 6 million people passed through the site unhindered and access was maintained to adjoining venues 24/7 during construction.

One key design element, the grid of 43 25m-high steel lighting columns, was specifically designed and developed by the architects with Valmont Structures, Universal Fibre Optics and Urbis Schréder for the square, with extensive prototyping prior to manufacture and installation. Other elements that the architects collaborated closely on were the design of the paving surface, developed with Hardscape and PAREX, and the reflection pool and water jets, designed in collaboration with Fountains Direct and AECOM. 

Overall, the scheme’s design helps minimise energy usage and resource use, integrating new public transport infrastructure, biodiverse landscaping, sustainable urban drainage – all with minimum maintenance.

The judges praised how it ‘addresses all the requirements of a complex brief, including stakeholder engagement and sustainability requirements’, creating ‘a high-quality space with a positive impact on its surrounding environment’.

One summarised by saying: ‘This is a very elegantly handled project, an all-rounder.’

Project data
Location Birmingham
Completed July 2019
Came into use July 2019
Project cost £15 million

Judges
Christian Bocci, WestonWilliamson+Partners
Catherine Hennessy, ACME
Chris Rankin, rankinfraser landscape architecture
Murray Smith, Untitled Practice

Shortlisted
Graeme Massie Architects with Hardscape and Valmont Stainton Redevelopment of Centenary Square, Birmingham
Scott Brownrigg with Barton Willmore Vista Chelsea Bridge
Weedon Architects with Icon Fabrications and Robinson Structures Chimp Tunnel and Tiger Tunnel, Twycross Zoo

Ajsa 2020 roofing1

Ajsa 2020 roofing1

The forge roof detail

The forge roof detail

The Forge, by RM_A with Radmat Building Products

‘This project demonstrates good design team collaboration and joined-up thinking,’ said the judges. ‘It responds to the city’s challenge – of not being able to put things in the ground – and uses specification to turn the scheme on its head, with a high-quality outcome.’

A key constraint of the original planning consent for this residential scheme was the site’s limiting maximum discharge rate for surface water of 3.3 litres per second – resulting in the scheme sitting within what’s known as a ‘critical drainage area’, and posing significant design challenges in terms of drainage. 

The majority of the roofs have been designed as a combined system of blue roofs, buried attenuation tanks and a hydro break – with foul and surface water drainage cast through pile caps and ground beams to maintain a gravity-fed system. Several of the water outlets have been fitted with flow-control devices, determined by Radmat’s flow rate modelling, to delay roof drainage and reduce the impact on the local sewage network during storm events.

‘A project done well,’ concluded the judges. 

Project data
Location London E6
Completed August 2019
Came into use August 2019
Project cost £40 million

Judges 
Christian Bocci, WestonWilliamson+Partners
Catherine Hennessy, ACME
Chris Rankin, rankinfraser landscape architecture
Murray Smith, Untitled Practice

Shortlisted
Rixon Architects with Oakwrights and Oversley The Pool House
RM_A with Radmat Building Products The Forge
Tigg + Coll Architects with Buckland Timber House for Theo and Oskar

 

 

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