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WAF 2019: Retrofit scheme named World Building of the Year

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Dutch conversion of locomotive hangar into a public library is the first retrofit to win the top prize at the World Architecture Festival 

A high-profile retrofit which saved a former transport building from the bulldozer has won top prize at the 12th annual World Architecture Festival (WAF).

LocHal Public Library in Tilburg, The Netherlands, a former 1930s locomotive shed, was named World Building of the Year 2019 at the culmination of the awards in Amsterdam on Friday night (6 December), the first time the redevelopment of an existing building has won the award in WAF’s 12 year history.

The scheme was designed by lead architect Civic architects, Braaksma & Roos Architectenbureau and Inside Outside/Petra Blaisse and provides amenities shared by the library, arts organisations and co-working companies. In addition to lecture and public event spaces, the building also has a number of ‘labs’ where visitors can learn new skills. 

The judges applauded the way ‘this project transformed a significant building which had been planned for demolition’ and how ‘the result has created a physical facility in which a variety of users can meet for multiple purposes. In this sense, the building has become a social condenser’.

The winner was selected by a jury including Ben van Berkel, founder and principal architect at UNStudio, Aaron Betsky, president of the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture and Maria Warner Wong, design director at WOW Architects & Warner Wong Design.

Other winners at the festival – which was held in Amsterdam for the second year in a row and next year will be in Lisbon – included Allford Hall Monaghan Morris for The Bower, another retrofit scheme in London’s Shoreditch which won the Completed Buildings: New and Old category; and Hopkins Architects in the The Best Use of Natural Light category, for its Smith Campus Center project at Harvard University.

The awards were presented at a gala dinner for more than 800 international architects at the Beurs van Berlage, the former stock exchange building dating back to the turn of the 20th century in the heart of Amsterdam.

You can see all the winners from WAF 19 here

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Readers' comments (2)

  • Excellent re-use - but has something been 'lost in translation' as this building, with its heavy structure and generous headroom (for overhead travelling cranes, by the look of it) housed railway locomotives (either being built or maintained) and wasn't a hangar - which is surely for aircraft.

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  • Thanks Robert. I've tweaked the language to 'locomotive shed' which seems more accurate. Best, Will Hurst

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    I wonder what the acoustics are like? Jeffrey (an Engineer and not an Architect)

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