WAN Unbuilt Awards: future GSA

“WAN’s 2012 Commercial (Future Schemes) category saw the judges torn between two very strong schemes: Mangera Yvers Architects submission for a Tesco store/community centre in Nottingham and HKS’ Future: GSA project. In the end, it was the adaptive re-use of a former GSA building which captured the judges attention, making HKS Inc the winners of this years’ award.

Mangera Yvers Architects’ Tesco proposal fought a good fight, securing itself a Highly Commended title from the judges. This is a scheme which looks to change the commercial typology, a scheme which made Tescos, ‘something a bit more than an inhumane box’ as put by Linzi Cassels, Principal of Pringle Brandon Perkins + Will. To Duncan Swinhoe, Managing Director of Gensler, the scheme displayed ‘sensitive drawing from the narrative of the surrounding’ by incorporating a lace pattern into the façade. The scheme would draw from the culture and local history of the site, paying respect to the culture and history that once existed there. Not only did the project look to bring back the consumer to the shops but looked to ‘change the experience of the user’ and give back to the community.

However, it was Future: GSA which won the coveted award with its ‘sophisticated’ take on adaptive re-use. By re-using and modernising a former office block Future: GSA was set apart from the rest of the commercial category with strong eco credentials, one example being the ETFE panelised cover embedded with building integrated photovoltaics set within the landscape. By removing the central core and lifting the body of the building up to create a pedestrian thoroughfare the scheme is ‘pushing at the boundaries’ confirmed juror Linzi Cassels. The judges all agreed that the ‘progressive’ scheme put forward by HKS Inc was ‘the direction we should be moving in’.

The scheme aims to ‘heal’ the unhealthy existing building and bring it back into the community, making it a ‘sustainable and thriving workplace’. To do so, the design removes the core of the building to bring daylight into the centre of a dense floorplan, also lifting the weight of the floorslabs to reduce the cooling loads. The interactive facade helps to control the thermal environment for the workers inside and the architects have even designed in cloud computing severs which allow the occupants to work from home or elsewhere.

For a future scheme the jurors felt a trust and ‘sympathy’ towards the design. Duncan Swinhoe, stated he ‘felt a sense of trust. They seem to be doing everything right. You look at what they had and where they got to; it’s a pretty strong transformation’. For the judges, awarding the HKS’ Future: GSA scheme the winning title was not just about strong sustainability; it was the forward-thinking of the scheme. It was looking to, as Linzi Cassels put it, ‘enhance the way people live and work.’ Richard Kauntze, Chief Executive of the British Council for Offices felt that Future: GSA was definitely the kind of project that as architects and designers we should be championing, concluding, ‘When you look at the massive schemes in China and the USA, what this is trying to do, from a country that still uses so much energy and wastes so much, (this scheme) feels right.’”