Frank la Riviere Architects Portfolio Blog

WAN Civic Buildings Award 2011 for Nebuta-no-ie Warasse (Nebuta House)

Winner of the WAN Civic Buildings Award, completed category: Nebuta House (Nebuta-no-ie Warasse), Aomori City, Japan

Nebuta House (Nebuta-no-ie Warasse), a museum and centre for creative culture in Japan wins the completed category of this year’s WAN Civic Buildings Award.

The WAN Civic Buildings Award, completed category has this year been awarded to molo, d&dt Arch and Frank la Rivière Architects Inc. for Nebuta House (Nebuta-no-ie Warasse). Nebuta House is a museum and centre for creative culture in the Northern Japanese city of Aomori and is inspired by the craftsmanship and spirit of the Nebuta Festival.

The Civic Buildings Award celebrates and promotes the best in international architecture for public use, attracting entries from all over the world. Fittingly the panel of judges was a highly experienced group who understand the complexities and opportunities in this sector. The jury included Lady Patricia Ann Hopkins – Co Founder of Hopkins Architects, Miles Delap – Partner at Gardiner & Theobald, Keith Williams – Founder of Keith Williams Architects, Morten Schmidt – Co-Founder of schmidt hammer lassen and Ralph Johnson – Design Principal at Perkins & Will.

An exciting shortlist included Sunset Chapel in Acapulco, Mexico. This chapel is the first religious commission for Bunker Arquitectura and is a chapel which appears as a magnificent rock that blends with its surrounding nature. Sunset Chapel was considered such a strong entry that it was awarded ‘Highly Commended’. Another very strong contender was Norihiko Dan
and Associates for their impressive tourism bureau on Sun Moon Lake in Nantou County, Taiwan. It was from this exceptional shortlist Nebuta House (Nebuta-no-ie Warasse) in Northern Japan was crowned the deserved winner.

Judges’ comments

A number of incredibly strong entries had the judges struggling to come to a shortlist. On reaching this shortlist they agreed that the civic submissions on the final list all offer hope and spirited design that encapsulate the very meaning of the term ‘public space’.

This notion of civic function was intrinsic to the jury’s decision process, with the majority of projects catching the eye of our jurors for their balance of strong architectural design and commitment to civic function. Keith Williams, Founding Partner of Keith Williams Architects was particularly taken with Larraz Arquitectos’ Shelter Home for the Homeless in Pamplona, which easily made the shortlist, commenting: “Many homeless people are untied over a social embarrassment about where they are, so a place like this where you are not under display would be quite a good thing.”
A number of schemes were praised for their easy integration into the surrounding landscape; JDS’s Holmenkollen Ski Jump was singled out for this purpose, alongside Bunker Arquitectura’s Sunset Chapel, both prominent figures in their communities yet sympathetic to the surrounding flora and fauna.

Selecting the winner in the completed category was harder still, but Nebuta House (Nebuta-no-ie Warasse), Aomori City, Japan was the most highly admired amongst the judges. Miles Delap, Partner at Gardiner & Theobald was particularly taken with the building: “It has the complexity that’s important in a civic building. It blends very nicely the community uses, the community art form which is obviously really interesting. The community art form is visually exciting and the building doesn’t compete with that but it has a really beautiful and lovely façade and depth to it that you don’t often see.”

Morten Schmidt, Co-Founder, schmidt hammer lassen, added that it was “a very modern building and very poetic”. He continued that “the project brings social energy and art and blends them together. A historical and traditional art form brought into a modern frame but done in a very elegant way”

Ralph Johnson, Principal and Design Director at Perkins+Will, Chicago also commented that Nebuta was “an interstitial space that transforms a black box function to create connections back to the city, with a façade of undulating individual shaped steel ribbons symbolizing the myth and tradition of this local festival.” Ending with saying that Nebuta is a “strong form which reinforces a specific regional-cultural tradition and becomes a year round civic amenity”

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