It was always going to be the biggest. Of the six sectors, the fifth in 2009, the Commercial Sector Awards were always going to be the most competitive and hard fought. Winning an award in this sector can have significant value for both the architect (winning new business) and the client (increased property value and/or letting demand).
So it came as no surprise that the volume and quality of entries broke all previous records with many of the top firms vying for the winning position. Over the two categories, built and un-built, the range and scope of the projects impressed the judges. Projects reaching the shortlist ranged from a stunning cafe in Vietnam to huge office towers in the world’s leading cities, through an innovative hotel in Dubai, office headquarters in Mumbai, an opera house in China, a convention centre in Virginia Beach, a meeting centre in Brussels, to a car showroom in Paris.
All of the shortlisted projects were exemplary, all had merits of some kind making it particularly tough on the judges but in the Built category, the Citroën showroom in the Champs-Elysées, Paris by Manuelle Gautrand Architecture had stolen the hearts and minds of all in the room. In the Unbuilt category, Patrik Schumacher from Zaha Hadid Architects was quick to identify the qualities of Gensler’s Naru Tower in Seoul. Much debate ensued but in the end, the jury had to revert to the core requirements for the submissions, that is that the design should demonstrate how the project has advanced its building type in some way and how they addressed key elements of the brief. In this account, Gensler’s tower had a clear lead. Its innovative skin ticked both boxes.
What made the selection of these two particular winners of the commercial sector even better was the disparity in the size of the practices. Gensler being the largest firm on the planet, Manuelle Gautrand Architecture on the other hand was unknown to the judges, thus reinforcing previous observations that in the WAN AWARDS, size clearly doesn’t matter. Just good architecture.