We were client advisers/enablers commissioned for a design competition for a housing exemplar for Whitehill Borden Eco Town. Exhibition Mews, the three terraced houses built as a result of the competition was recently shortlisted for the Stephen Lawrence Prize. A prize intended to reward fresh talent working with smaller budgets. As the CABE Enabler we supported two different project managers to develop the design brief and promote a design competition, providing continuity to pursuit of the project aims. As well as achieving high standards of energy efficiency the aim was to create a replicable, carbon neutral, terraced housing typology that could contribute to the character of the new Eco Town in the South Downs.
The client was dissuaded from holding a single stage open competition as this calls on too many practices to invest free time that is of little benefit to the client. Because early stage design development can’t be tested in dialogue with the client. Instead a two stage selection process called for expressions of interest and shortlisted five teams to develop sketch designs in conversation with the client team. We designed a competition brand and the brief was carefully set out to signal the creative aspirations for the project. Adverts were placed in key design journals and fifty-four submissions were received.
We devised selection criteria that would prioritise the client’s wish to identify an imaginative team who would be able to extend the design brief whilst working with budget constraints. In the judging of the competition; creativity, the ability to develop environmentally responsive design, technical capability and communications skills were given 70% of the score, track record and range of appropriate expertise were given 30%. Financial and insurance requirements were set to pass or fail but with a threshold that would not exclude SMEs. A category into which most young and often fleet footed practices fall.
The competition was won by Ash Sakula Architects because their approach was considered by the jury to be most liveable. In their design every day needs for storage and domestic activities are carefully considered. The cubic form of the house is extended into the front garden with and un-insulated entrance porches and store and space for laundry is made on the upper level. The construction is timber framed and timber shingles are used to clad the rear elevation.
Photograph: Stephen Gardener – Ground Floor View – Ash Sakula Architects