Emirates Glass Leaf Awards 2013

The shortlist for public building of the year – culture and sport

by Malcolm Clark
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Our second look at the nominees for this year's 10th Leaf Awards to be held in London on September 20th concentrates on two categories which spring to prominence in the summer months especially when the holidays are longer and people have more time to spend doing what they like most: Public Building of the Year - Culture and Public Building of the Year - Sport.

The culture category has 5 nominees.

While the first nominee does not seem to have much to do with culture, the project is indeed a noteworthy one being located in the medieval town of Gubbio in central Italy. It involves the Extension of Gubbio cemetery intending to redefine its centrality within the city structure. Andrea Dragoni's plan is one of an urban settlement in which linear stereometric blocks are arranged to create open spaces to pause and reflect.

Highly acclaimed Danish office 3XN Architects, famed for their projects of revolutionary design, have once again come up trumps with the new aquarium in Copenhagen The Blue Planet. Located on the shores of Øresund, just 8 kilometres from the city centre, the aquarium is the largest and most significant aquarium in Northern Europe. Its shape is inspired by natural whirlpools, shoals of fish, telling the story of what waits inside before the visitor enters.

Another Danish Architect Henning Larsen, who recently died, in association with Icelandic architects BATTERÍID ARCHITECTS, has been nominated for Harpa, the Reykjavic concert hall and conference centre, like the Blue Planet, located on the border between land and sea. The striking feature of this building are its glass and steel façades which create a vibrant play of light and shadow with the changing daylight. Artist Olafur Eliasson who collaborated in the design of this 12-sided space-filler of glass and calls it “quasi brick”.

The fourth nominee in this sector is a building which has already won World Building of the Year at last year's WAF, Cooled Conservatories at Gardens by the Bay, where this year's World Architecture Festival will be taking place. The conservatories at the heart of Bay South Garden were designed by Wilkinson Eyre Architects and Grant Associates and cover more than 20,000 sq m and are among the largest climate-controlled glasshouses in the world. They provide a spectacular, all-weather attraction and comprise a 1.28 hectare cool dry conservatory (the ‘Flower Dome’) and a 0.73 hectare cool moist conservatory (the ‘Cloud Forest’). Each has its own distinct character, but both explore the horticulture of those environments most likely to be affected by climate change.

The final nominee in this category is French architectural office archi5 with the Médiathèque Mont de Marsan. This media library was built in a drill yard within an army barracks and its transparent façades were designed to contrast, but also complement the austere military architecture which it reflects.

The same architects are also nominated in the second category Public Building of the year: Sport with the Léo Lagrange Stadium in Toulon France. The stadium named after the former under secretary of State for sport who helped to organise the 1936 People's Olympiad in Barcelona to counter Hitler's 1936 Olympics in Berlin, which he used as propaganda of Nazism. The stadium stands on a site which is an urban park devoted to sport. The characterising feature of the buildings for competition and greeting the public is its jetty-like design recalling Toulon’s historic ties with the sea. The jetty hovers above massed vegetation like a “Mexican Wave”.

The Second Stadium in this category is Make Architects The Copper Box - London 2012 Handball Arena, which was built with the same criteria of adaptability which characterised many of the London 2012 constructions. Indeed the legacy construction will be used for local and national sporting events and concerts thanks to the retractable seating.

Nominees in the sports section would not be complete without Populous, the firm specialised in designing sports facilities. Leeds Arena, constructed in Britain's 3rd largest city, is a 12,500 seater very good rated Breeam multi-purpose facility, making it the UK's most sustainable venue.

    Extension of Gubbio cemetery 29

    Extension of Gubbio cemetery

    Gubbio / Italy / 2011

    The Blue Planet 251

    The Blue Planet

    Copenhagen / Denmark / 2013

    Harpa 66


    Reykjavik / Iceland / 2011

    Cooled Conservatories at Gardens by the Bay 166

    Cooled Conservatories at Gardens by the Bay

    Singapore / Singapore / 2012

    Médiathèque Mont de Marsan 31

    Médiathèque Mont de Marsan

    Mont-de-Marsan / France / 2012

    Léo Lagrange Stadium Toulon 8

    Léo Lagrange Stadium Toulon

    Toulon / France / 2013

    The Copper Box - London 2012 Handball Arena 2

    The Copper Box - London 2012 Handball Arena

    London / United Kingdom / 2011

    Leeds Arena 13

    Leeds Arena

    Leeds / United Kingdom / 2012