The shortlist is announced today for the Great Fen Visitor Centre competition. RIBA Competitions is managing the competition on behalf of the Great Fen partnership, which comprises the Environment Agency, Huntingdonshire District Council, Middle Level Commissioners, Natural England and The Wildlife Trust for Bedfordshire, Cambridgeshire and Northamptonshire.
Great Fen is an internationally acclaimed vision, one of sweeping scale and ambition. Over the next 50-100 years, more than 3,000ha of largely arable land will be transformed into a mosaic of habitat: open water, lakes, ponds and ditches; reedbed; fen, bog and marsh; wet grassland; dry grassland; woodland and scrub. The restored landscape will be created around and between Holme Fen National Nature Reserve and Woodwalton Fen National Nature Reserve - precious fragments of wild fen that are home to rare and endangered species of fenland plants. The new Visitor Centre will be the Great Fen’s hub - an essential part of the evolving fenland landscape, to stimulate exploration and serve its visitors to the highest standards.
The first stage of the competition attracted 201 anonymous entries, with design teams from across Europe and the UK submitting preliminary proposals for the project. The Judging Panel was delighted by the outstanding response to the competition and to see how competitors had addressed the unique flatness of the Fens, the big Fenland skies and the horizon as a feature in the landscape. In view of the response and the range of site approaches and building typologies proposed, the Judging Panel recommended that the short-list should be increased to five.
The five short-listed teams (in alphabetical order of design team lead) were subsequently identified as:
- Birds Portchmouth Russum Architects Ltd.
- Boyarsky Murphy Architects
- Feilden + Mawson LLP
- Foster Lomas Ltd.
- Shiro Studio Ltd.
Members of the Judging Panel commented:
‘The Great Fen Project Partners are delighted with the enthusiastic response to their call for a Great Fen Visitor Centre design, and look forward to the ultimate selection of a design that will embody and progress their vision for the Great Fen.’
Kate Carver (Great Fen Project Manager)
‘The Great Fen Project Partners ought to be congratulated on choosing an open and anonymous first stage for this competition. In an industry where procurement is often biased towards track record, it is refreshing to find clients who are still prepared to run competitions that give practices of all sizes and experience the chance of being selected for an ambitious and exciting project such as this. Short-listing was a challenge due to the unusually high number and calibre of submissions received - we were all fascinated to subsequently learn the names of the practices behind the preliminary proposals.’
Cindy Walters (Walters & Cohen Architects, RIBA Architect Adviser to the Competition)
Panel members look forward to seeing further exploration and refinement of the Stage 1 design concepts, when the short-listed teams present their schemes to the Judging Panel in late April 2013.