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Competition: Rethinking former gasholders

Gasholder demolition in Edmonton
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The RIBA has launched an international competition to re-imagine the huge circular voids left by decommissioned gasholders

The contest, run in partnership with the National Grid, invites architects to devise alternative uses for the sub-surface voids left by demolished gasholders.

The organisers believe the other option of backfilling the holes will be labour and resource intensive, as well as detrimental to the evironment.

National Grid Property, which manages the National Grid’s surplus land, is running the competition as it has a number of gasholders which will be dismantled in the next few years.

According to the brief: ‘This competition is being launched to raise the profile of the future of gasholder bases and the subsequent regeneration this will generate.

‘It is important to note that National Grid are unlikely to be the developer for these sites, although they hope the winning designs will attract interest from potential developers and provide a guide for the future use of sites.’

The document continued: ‘There are many gasholder sites where there is potential to leave the holder base empty and install a base, a simple internal structure, and a roof.

‘This “product” has potential to be more valuable than the land with a backfilled holder and a conventional building. The success of this approach relies on there being a viable market for such products.’

The first phase of the competition will require digital submissions only, with five concept designs shortlisted for further development at the second phase. Each shortlisted scheme will receive a stipend of of £3,000 +VAT.

The winner will be awarded a further £4,000 +VAT and there may be an additional payment of £1,000 +VAT for a highly commended scheme.

The deadline for applications is 2pm on 10 October.

How to apply

Visit the competition website for more information

Contact details

RIBA Competitions
No 1 Aire Street

Tel: 0113 203 1490
Email: riba.competitions@riba.org



Laura Watson, gasholder demolition manager at National Grid Property

Laura Watson, gasholder demolition manager at National Grid Property

Laura Watson, gasholder demolition manager at National Grid Property

Laura Watson, gasholder demolition manager at National Grid Property

Why are your holding a contest to rethink the voids left by dismantled gasholders?

National Grid Property has a number of gasholder voids, and our usual practice is to fill them in, but we would like to explore if this is the most economically and environmentally sustainable solution. Every site we have is different in terms of location, configuration and potential constraints, and we want to get the contestants’ imagination flowing, which is why we’ve provided four different sites for them to choose from.

What is your vision for how these spaces could be transformed in the future?

We have looked in to different uses for our gasholder voids, the potential options are endless, but we don’t want to lead the contestants’ imagination down a certain route. We would like to receive fresh, imaginative ideas from far and wide, hence we have opened up our competition to the international community. Our sites range in size from containing single to multiple void spaces. Each site would come with its own unique planning constraints but the right solution would be one that helps a developer resolve them. The typical site locations and current UK planning regime means that changing the site end use is likely to be straightforward. We pride ourselves in being a responsible business - sustainability is a key part of this, and we would hope this is a key consideration for the contestants too.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The competition is an open call for ideas and all entries will be evaluated anonymously. This is a real opportunity for small emerging new practices to compete against larger more established firms on an equal playing field.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

We will not be developing these sites ourselves; we would expect any potential developer to directly procure the services of the designer that has produced the solution which best fits a particular scheme. The current competition is our main focus in National Grid Property at the moment.

Are there any other gasholder conversion projects you have been impressed by?

To our knowledge, we are not aware of any specific gasholder void conversion projects. We are hoping this competition will generate some new and ingenious ideas which are hopefully deliverable in the real world.

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