Together with the co-operation of the Jersey Architecture Commission (JAC), the Association of Jersey Architects (AJA), stage Architecture Week every two years.
This year it started with a Launch Afternoon at Fort Regent on Sunday 23 June, and culminated with the Design Awards Ceremony on Friday 28 June. This closing event, held at Castle Quay, was hosted by celebrity guest speaker, Dan Cruickshank. To help give national exposure to the event, AW13 was staged to correspond with the Love Architecture Festival held by the Royal British Institute of Architects (RIBA). The series of high profile talks, walks, debates, exhibitions and competitions were specifically conceived to offer something for everyone in a desire to engage with as much of the local community as possible.
While the week generally achieved many of its goals, its main achievements included: the Minister for Planning and Environment announcing his wish to list the Fort Regent Parade Ground roof; the presentation of a new draft public realm strategy; and the Planning Department and Parish of St Helier jointly, focussing their attentions on urban living in Town. It is hoped that these will lead to tangible progress being made in these subjects.
Town walks around the waterfront, Fort Regent and the Millennium Town Park area were all very well attended. While the most successful events were possibly the two competitions – the School JEP Challenge, themed around the construction of a dome from newspaper, and the architectural design awards, intended to commend the best works of architecture for the proceeding two years.
The ‘build a dome’ event tasked both primary & secondary schools to research and construct a dome structure in recognition of the Fort Regent dome. Prize money of £250 was awarded by sponsors A A Langlois Recycling to each of the categories, the largest having a diameter of over 3m. Well done to all children who took part!
The architectural design awards were open to all designers, not just the membership of the AJA. 65 entries were received and all were displayed at Castle Quay to allow the general public to take part in the People’s Choice Award. The judging panel was chaired by UK architect Andy Theobald, a director at the celebrated architectural practice Fielden Clegg Bradley Studios, and a member of the JAC. His links with the Channel Islands do not end here, as his wife hails from Alderney. While the number and quality of submissions was equivalent to previous design awards, there was a clear shift in the emphasis brought about by the tough economic climate. There was a clear bias towards residential-type projects, and the numbers within the Un-built category were particularly high. Despite the difficult trading conditions, the judging standards matched national standards. Andy Theobald had in fact just completed judging the Scottish Architectural Design Awards. The rigour was such that 3 categories did not in fact receive any awards as it was felt important that standards were maintained. Greater focus would need to be given to Sustainability, art in the built environment and small-scale extensions/alterations in future design awards. However, given some of the subject matters show cased during the architecture festival, it is hoped that these perceived weaknesses can be improved upon.
The awards served to clearly demonstrate that a new generation of contemporary architecture was being delivered to the Island. Many of the new residences could grace the pages of any international architectural periodical. Indeed, many of these projects clearly highlighted the great contribution that certain high value residents made to the local construction industry.
It was a shame to note that certain local architectural practices or firms had not taken up the opportunity to exhibit their works. This absence was particularly noted with social housing projects which were poorly represented. It is hoped that subsequent ceremonies will have appropriate entries in this range as this is deemed to be an architectural type which is essential to the Island’s well being and community spirit. To commend the architecture of such projects would be testament to the commitment the States of Jersey and other such housing providers have for this category of user group.
The ever-popular physical model exhibition was also held at Castle Quay. While it was noted that the number of new models had dropped, the number of digital 3-D presentations had increased. Many of these had in fact incorporated the new Town 3-D digital model which has been prepared by the Department of the Environment. This invaluable tool is available to all licence holders of the local Digimap Island Plans, and can be used to quickly and accurately model new projects in Town. We shall no doubt be seeing more of the images generated by this resource.
The star of the whole week however was certainly the architectural historian and celebrated TV presenter Dan Cruickshank. Not only did he co-judge the Dome Competition, entertaining the children in attendance, but he also gave interviews to all the media streams and presented the Design Awards. His lecture on the broad issue of sustainability was very much in line with Deputy Rob Duhamel’s opening speech during the Fort Regent Launch event. Both environmental and cultural value was placed onto our existing built environment, and the challenge was set to only produce buildings of equal, if not better, quality.
What a wonderful commendation and challenge for all our architectural designers in Jersey.
The weeklong event would not have happened without the support of all the various sponsors who contributed to AW13. It was consciously decided to obtain support from as much of the construction industry and the public sector as possible. It is to these groups and firms that the AW13 success is owed.