When modest + understated = extraordinary
By Katie Prestidge
From buildings that push the conceptual boundaries of design, to projects that are simple yet meticulously executed, AJ small projects 2017 was a true showcase of outstanding work.
I was an honoured member of this year’s judging panel and the high standard of entries made reaching a final decision on the overall winner, a difficult task.
As a new critic, I took comfort in the knowledge that it was acceptable for my opinion to be subjective – this for me is the perfect adjective for architecture. As well as the structural aesthetic, the emotions that are evoked through wonderful architecture helped to form part of my decision making process and so many of this year’s entries demonstrate beauty on many of these levels.
Each finalist was able to articulate value, attention to detail and passion for their projects, but a couple of presentations provoked particular intrigue and excitement.
The first being Perea Borobio House, by Canales & Lombardero. The fluid design of this house accommodates the demands of its immediate occupants yet gives thoughtful consideration to the needs and expectations of future generations. The idea that a single structure can hide so many flexible living options and reinvent itself based on the needs of its inhabitants is an intriguing concept.
Another project which struck a personal cord was Lipton Plant Architects, Bath House Children’s Community centre. Inspired by Daniel Defoe’s novel Robinson Crusoe, the project transforms the previously confined space of a Victorian bath house with an interactive, stimulating space for children. As well as meeting a strict design brief from the client, careful consideration was given to the audience and the final design of the space provokes imaginative play, demonstrating that intuitive design can in turn inspire creativity.
Final comment must be given to the winning project, Croft Lodge Studio by Kate Darby and David Conner. The strategy was not to repair the 300 year old structure but simply preserve. The high performance building envelope encases and protects the fragile history of the building within and the minimalist and modest choice of external materials contrasts with the delicate ruin.
‘At first glance the project is quite modest and has an ordinary quality. But then it is transformed into something surprising and challenging”
Kate Goodwin, head of architecture at the Royal Academy
AJ celebrates its 22nd year of Small Projects and with entries this year at an all-time high (both quantity and quality) I for one am already excited about next year.