A habitable space disguised as an air vent has won the competition for a £25,000 pop-up rooftop ‘Antepavilion’ at Columbia and Brunswick Wharf in Hackney, north-east London
Described as a ‘playful subversion of planning legislation’ – the innovative proposal by PUP Architects exploits permitted development rights to deliver a new rooftop dwelling camouflaged as mechanical plant.
The H-VAC proposal – clad in reversible Tetra Pak shingles – was chosen ahead of four rival finalist visions in The Architecture Foundation-organised competition. Are we bored of the city by Relational Architecture won second place.
According to a statement by PUP: ‘While permitted development exists for large-scale infrastructural roof installations – seen throughout the city – little challenge has been made for other viable and productive uses for rooftops. By subverting the form of the permitted and giving it a non-standard use, we hope to bring into question this order of priorities.
‘We envisage this pavilion as a prototype for the guerrilla habitation of London’s roof space, producing a landscape of rooftop structures akin to New York’s famous city water towers.’
The contest, open to emerging architects, artists and designers, sought ‘experimental’ proposals for a temporary structure to occupy the 40m² roof of a former industrial complex now used as artist studios, overlooking the Regent’s Canal in Haggerston.
The contest is planned to run every year, and is backed by studios operator Art House Foundation and historic regeneration specialist Shiva. PUP’s winning scheme will be erected on the rooftop by 1 August and will also feature in the annual Open House weekend.
The five shortlisted schemes – drawn up by emerging London architects Han Hao, Ellen Mueller, PUP Architects, Relational Architecture and Studio Merlin – were chosen anonymously from a field of 128 submissions.
The two-storey Columbia Wharf and its neighbour Brunswick Wharf were originally home to the Gas Light and Coke Company, but were transformed into artists’ studios almost 20 years ago. The two buildings, at 53-55 Laburnum Street, overlook Haggerston Baths and BDP’s 2008 Bridge Academy.
Artists based inside the Columbia and Brunswick Wharf complex include sculptor Owen Bullett, Dutch artist Magali Reus and 2016 Turner Prize-winner Helen Marten.
Participants were asked to consider innovative or alternative ways of living within the city and new forms of urban housing, such as micro-dwellings. Sustainable schemes that harness recycled or recyclable materials were also encouraged.
The five shortlisted teams worked with structural engineer AKT II to develop their schemes ahead of the final round of interviews earlier this month. The finalist designs will also feature in an exhibition inside the Art House Foundation Gallery space at Columbia Wharf.
The judging panel included Bartlett lecturer Matthew Butcher, James Binning of Assemble, Anna Colin from Open School East, Shiva managing director Russell Gray, artist Ana Genovés and Woodman. PUP will receive a small cash prize alongside materials and labour to support delivering their design.
WINNER: H-VAC by Pup Architects
Shortlisted: H-VAC by Pup Architects
Entrant’s statement Clad in reversible Tetra Pak shingles, H-VAC is a playful subversion of planning legislation, exploiting permitted development rights for rooftop plant to confront the habitation of rooftop space.
Covertly extrovert, the snaking linear form references the voluminous curved surfaces of rooftop ducting and air handling plant; primarily functional yet surprisingly sculptural. A shelter in disguise, the enlarged scale allows inhabitation and exploits its inaccessible location, concealing a rooftop garden.
Whilst permitted development exists for large-scale infrastructural roof installations – seen throughout the city – little challenge has been made for other viable and productive uses for rooftops. By subverting the form of the permitted and giving it a non-standard use, we hope to bring into question this order of priorities.
We envisage this pavilion as a prototype for the guerilla habitation of London’s roofspace producing a landscape of rooftop structures akin to New York’s famous city water towers.
Within the composition of the surrounding rooftops, H-VAC sits as the cheeky younger cousin of the Tetra Pak clad Beach House on the neighbouring roof.
The cladding shingles are cut from reject Tetra Pak printed roll, commonly available online or from a recycling centre virtually free of cost. The shingles are folded in on themselves to protect the cut edges from delaminating when wet, exposing the waterproof foil surface on both faces.
We first tested this cladding system on a project we built with a team of students in 2013 in Latvia. Having survived four winters through heavy snow and sunshine, the project is still standing today and looks good as new. The success of the system has led us to search for a project on which to develop the idea further. This pavilion is the perfect opportunity to test the idea in London.
FINALIST: Sparerooms by Han Hao
Shortlisted: Sparerooms by Han Hao
Entrant’s statement This flat-sharing house is an experiential prototype that intensifies and evaluates the daily experience of co-housing. Cohousing with strangers is the norm of how London homes are occupied today. The house in the housing climate of London could serve as a ‘trial period’ for potential flatmates to meet and come up with their own interpretations of domesticity.
Within this context, the house becomes a physical setting whereby friends or strangers are constantly grappling with domestic decisions. The proposal celebrates the political nature of domestic environments. Rather than mere objects for use, household elements such as partitions, furniture and objects become active agents that invite discussion and debate, use and misuse. Banality of the home becomes significant and invites new appropriations for the function and use of domestic settings.
FINALIST: Urban Symbiosis by Ellen Mueller
Shortlisted: Urban Symbiosis by Ellen Mueller
Entrant’s statement The design for the Urban Symbiosis Pavilion was born of the idea how urban densification within London and other cities with high pressure on housing demands can be achieved to the benefits of all inhabitants. The rooftops of industrial structures like those on the given site, or of any other buildings, be it residential or commercial, were singled out as the most underused areas with a great potential.
This pavilion was developed to build a symbiosis with its host structure, a ‘mutually beneficial relationship between two different organisms in close physical association’. It benefits from the existing infrastructure, including circulation and services as well as access to sunlight and great views.
FINALIST: Are we bored of the city by Relational Architecture
Shortlisted: Are we bored of the city by Relational Architecture
Entrant’s statement We wish we had the instruments to understand the city like they did in the sixties, when they designed all these bold futures. We wish, but we don’t know how. No matter! There is no excuse to hide behind concrete façades, like Shinohara did after the Metabolists.
We designed a dialectic machine to assess our relationship with the city. Floating on a net above the plants – a secret garden of sorts, yes, a comfortable world hidden away – we start from this degree zero to select, open and close, angle the panels which constitute the façades. Thus we construct our understanding of the surroundings.
FINALIST: The Hackney Onion by Studio Merlin
Shortlisted: The Hackney Onion by Studio Merlin
Entrant’s statement The Hackney Onion is a prototype of the proposed speculative Onion Housing model, offering one potential solution to the housing shortage.
The onion concept derives itself from Hackney’s multiple layers, its established foodie culture and the technology hub that it, along with other areas of East London, are becoming.
In an exploratory study of the functional credentials of the traditional onion dome form, the Hackney Onion proposes for the Arts House Foundation rooftop a temporary structure consisting of seven single occupancy units, storage for their wordly possessions and a communal living space with an impressive ceiling.
The Hackney Onion attempts to proactively tackle some of the big issues currently facing London, whilst all the while celebrating the skyline and adding cultural value.
It has been drawn up as an ideal, and may be repurposed for the competition if buildability is an issue.
Q+A: Russell Gray, managing director Shiva
What is your vision for the Antepavilion commission?
To enable young and emerging architects/designers/artists/craftsmen to explore a hands-on and more free-form ‘architectural’ production process than the confines of commercial architecture/design will allow. The structure may be more or less habitable; it can directly relate to fully-habitable mobile micro-housing or it could be no more than shelter from the sun or rain, like a Japanese tea pavilion. It needs only to be possible to get inside in some meaningful way. Architectural quality is paramount but that doesn’t mean particularly expensive or high quality materials or fine craftsmanship are welcome or relevant. This would be nonsense in a transient structure. It is about ideas and experimentation. The structure is specified to not exceed a footprint of 40m². The budget is £10,000 for the commission to cover design and hands-on work by the winner with a guide of £15,000 for materials and craftsmen to assist with fabrication/construction on site. The project is annual because the idea is to create an ongoing initiative and expression for the kind of hands-on construction that I would like to see form a part of many architects’/designers’/artists’ experience. It is conceived as annual because as a one-off it would make little impact in this respect.
How will the pavilion relate to the Columbia and Brunswick Wharf complex and its surrounding context?
The brief is certainly to connect with the site but it should be in relatively abstract ways; we don’t want a mere industrial shed because thats what the site comprises. Structures should be in complete contrast in the sense that they are all about ideas and very little to do with the creation of a perfunctory enclosed volume, which is the objective that clearly drove the existing site buildings. However they must pick up on the themes established by the location of the site: its surroundings, including the waterside setting, and its use as predominantly artists’ studios and gallery space. The structures are intended for erection solely on the flat rooftops as temporary structures, and in that respect, they may be validly seen by some entrants as potentially viable mobile micro-housing experiments. Use of re-cycled and recyclable materials will be encouraged and favoured.
The site will inevitably be developed in the medium term. It is conceivable that the commission will generate ideas that can find expression in the evolved site - which our ethos favours being through organic development. Even though the existing buildings are of little or no intrinsic architectural value the industrial history of the site earns it some respect in my book. Shiva, the owners of the site and the main backers of this project are really specialised in heritage and restoration. This commission is the antithesis of this in that it is for a structure of transience without there being any emphasis on durable, traditional materials or fine craftsmanship. On the other hand it resonates in that the direct working of materials and the expression of much more than pure function in a structure harks back to a generally prouder era.
What sort of architects, designers and artists are you hoping will apply?
I hope it will attract those who want a design freedom and/or a construction challenge that they may have found difficult to engage in the regulatory and commercially constrained environment in which most of us are obliged to operate. The manifesto is one of de-alienation through direct engagement in design and production that becomes possible through the small scale of the project. I don’t expect Grimshaw turning up with his welding mask under his arm – although he is most welcome to if he is so inclined.
What are your plans for future Antepavilion commissions and will architects be procured the same way?
This is certainly not a recruitment exercise. It is part of the concept of the commission that it is organic and evolutionary. If some greater focus than the loose and slightly anarchic brief we have started with in fact seems likely to better serve the objectives I have talked about above there is certainly no reason why it can’t change accordingly.
Are there any other similar temporary rooftop pavilion projects you have been impressed by?
I am not very erudite when it comes to particular architectural movements or personal works. I am also not much of a contemporary architecture tourist. You’re more likely to find me in Ephesus or Thebes than hunting down the works of current or recent starchitects. So if I’m unknowingly operating within an established architectural genre, someone better tell me. I’m most likely to be attracted to the proposal that I can’t easily relate to anything I’ve seen before.