Supporting Small Projects for five years
1. What is it you love about AJ Small Projects and the architects who participate in it?
It is a great privilege to be involved with the AJ Small Projects awards. We often see our roofing and facade materials used on largescale developments, however AJ Small Projects provides a platform to showcase and reward that unique and diverse range of smaller projects. For example, last year’s shortlist included a barn, a bridge, a bunker, a café, a castle and a floating cinema! Often, the best ideas come when we are working within budgetary or time constraints, and this is clear to see with the imagination and creativity we continue to observe in the shortlisted small projects.
2. What are your three favourite projects from the past five years?
I have three projects that stand out for different reasons, both aesthetically and functionally.
Firstly, Transient Gallery, Venice by GRAS (2013). This was based on a beautiful Venetian plaza, and the gallery displayed art and architecture in a truly unique way.
I also really admired Hut, by Studio BAAD (2013). The Hut was functional and cost effective and fitted in with the surrounding landscape.
Finally, Capel Manor House Guest Pavilion, by Ewan Cameron Architects (2011) was another favourite of mine as it is a captivating and stunning building.
I know I can only pick three, but the Office for Subversive Architecture’s exhibition at CUBE in Manchester, which used recycled materials, also stands out as it pushed the boundaries yet was also a champion for sustainability.
3. What do you enjoy most about the crit and the exhibition?
I enjoy seeing the passion and enthusiasm architects have for their projects. The format of the crit only gives them two minutes for their presentation, followed by three minutes for judges’ questions.
From a single picture of their project to full-blown presentations, the variety of methods architects use to try and convey their passion is truly enjoyable. It really helps us as judges get to the crux of why that project should win, and makes everyone on the panel very focused.
4. Can you recall your most memorable moment when announcing the winners at the AJ Small Projects party?
It’s difficult to pick a single winner because there’s a genuine shock from all winners, which is humbling as it shows they are all aware of the high calibre of other entries within the competition.
Chris Dyson Architects’ Wapping Head last year was quite memorable. Chris is an established architect, yet you could still see the joy at his practice winning the award. There are plenty of awards out there for projects supported by significant budgets, so it’s good to see smaller-scale projects receiving the same level of recognition.
5. Why are small projects important to the profession and to the wider construction industry?
From a manufacturer’s point of view, the awards are very important because they give an insight into the specification challenges faced by architects when working within budget constraints. This helps us to see where we can provide practical support to architects through EPDs, BIM services etc, but also which areas our research and development teams need to be working on from a product innovation point of view.
In terms of the rest of the industry, big-budget projects get a lot of recognition, and it is important that we recognise the exciting work being carried out on a smaller scale. The awards also show new ideas that could be replicated in larger projects. For example, they demonstrate that sustainable building doesn’t have to be expensive, with the shortlisted projects using many innovative, yet cost-effective, ways to lower carbon emissions.