Architectural excellence in Hackney is being celebrated again, with a call for nominations for awards for the best building design in the borough.
Entries have opened for the Hackney Design Awards 2010, a biannual commemoration of “great design in Hackney” which gives members of the public the power to crown their favourite new building.
Howard Carter, an architect at Thinking Space Limited, and a member of the Hackney Design Panel 2008, explained the thinking behind the awards.
“By raising the profile of design in the planning process of the construction of new buildings, the Hackney Design Awards help to encourage the creation of exceptional new buildings in Hackney,” he said. “This in turn will hopefully improve the area, one building at a time.”
The Hackney Design Awards 2008 winners, Adelaide Wharf, Hothouse, Lau Sun House and Shoreditch Prototype House, were all were deemed by an independent panel of judges to adhere to high standards of innovation, aesthetics, sustainability and quality of construction.
But as Carter explains, the Awards are about more than ‘ticking all the boxes.’
“The designs which were highlighted in 2008 [as winners] were designed with care. You can tell when care has gone into a design, when they have gone further than what is really required,” he said.
Carter is against ‘formulaic’ one-size-fits-all architecture, seeing great architecture as ‘unique and thoughtful.’ “It must be designed with clear consideration for its surroundings.”
Bernard Stilwell, of Hackney-based Bernard Stilwell Architects, sees the current architectural trend in Hackney as largely positive. “The bar has been raised on the standard of design in Hackney,” he said.
“Whereas in the past, aesthetic design may have been overlooked, it is now recognised as a key element which will, in turn, enhance the appeal of the area.”
New for 2010 is the inclusion of the People’s Choice Awards, which takes place in early October and allows the public to vote for the best of the shortlisted entries.
So what do members of the public think of design in Hackney? EastLondonLines went out and about in the borough to ask local people which local buildings they like best.
In Dalston, Andy, a local police constable who preferred to give only his first name, said: “I like the Hackney Town Hall, in particular at Christmas, with the lights in the trees. That relaxes me, makes me feel very chilled out. This is the first time I have heard about the Hackney Design Awards, but I will check it out.”
Soldier Jay Kerr, 30, of the 2nd Rifles Regiment and currently working in the Army Recruitment Office, said: “I don’t live in Hackney, I commute from Surrey Quays. But I really like the new Overground tube station – it’s simple and functional.”
Market trader Brenda Kearney said: “There is a restaurant called LMNT on the Queensbridge Road. The outside isn’t great, but inside it’s the most amazing building I have ever seen – makes you feel as if you are in Ancient Egypt.”
Ryan Hamilton, 22, from Belfast, said: “I don’t live in the area but I think that the community and arts centre, Hothouse, is a brilliant design. The roof garden is pretty cool. I imagine the views of the skyline are incredible.”
Denise, who works for Hackney council, and also preferred only to give her first name, said: “My favourite building in the borough would probably be the Hackney Town Hall in Mare Street. Inside the walls are covered with historic photographs of the area and portraits of previous mayors.”
Glazier Razvan Giurgiuca, 28, from Southwark, said: “I like the Shoreditch Prototype House, which was one of the winning schemes in the Hackney Design Awards 2008.”
“I think the incorporation of greenery in the design is attractive. My favourite building from the Hackney Design Awards 2006 is the Brook Community Primary School. I am currently working on a similar use of glass on a project in Shoreditch.”
Nominations for the 2010 awards are open from now until 2 August, with forms available from the council website. To be eligible for the awards, buildings must be located in the borough of Hackney, and have been completed after 1 September 2008.
The winning designs will be announced at a ceremony in mid-November.