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Competition: Antepavilion 3

The Architecture Foundation has launched an international contest for a £25,000 ‘beacon’ tower at Columbia and Brunswick Wharf in Hackney, north-east London (Deadline: 11 February)

The anonymous competition – now in its third year – invites artists, architects, designers and makers to draw up radical visions for a prominent ‘beacon’ or spire to occupy the roof of the Grade II-listed Hoxton Docks complex on the Regent’s Canal.

The £25,000 project, backed by historic regeneration specialist Shiva, will transform the north-westernmost roof corner into a signpost for the wharf’s ‘alternative educational and experimental ethos’. The call for entries comes four months after the winners of the second commission, Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers, transformed a large disused barge into a floating inflatable theatre named AirDraft.

Contest site: Columbia and Brunswick Wharf in Hackney, north-east London

Contest site: Columbia and Brunswick Wharf in Hackney, north-east London

Contest site: Columbia and Brunswick Wharf in Hackney, north-east London

According to the brief: ‘The programme for the Antepavilion is not set. It could be a purely sculptural object, a signpost or watchtower or perform a more specific function. The site is particularly prominent and can be seen from both directions along the canal so teams might consider the sculptural opportunities which these views invite, or how the Antepavilion could have a visual presence by night.

‘Considerable importance will be attached to the contribution that the structure can make to the eclectic and random character of the adjacent rooftops as a test-bed for design innovation. Proposals should also engage with the potential that the site provides for a very visible local marker, which has vantage points from both the canal and surrounding streets.’

The two-storey Columbia Wharf and its neighbour Brunswick Wharf were originally home to the Gas Light and Coke Company, but were transformed into artist studios almost 20 years ago and are now known as Hoxton Docks. The two buildings, at 53-55 Laburnum Street, overlook Haggerston Baths and BDP’s 2008 Bridge Academy.

The winners of last year’s Antepavilion 2 Commission – Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers – created an inflatable performance space from a disused barge moored outside Hoxton Docks on the south side of the canal opposite the towpath.

PUP Architects won 2017’s inaugural Antepavilion commission with ‘H-VAC’ – a micro-dwelling camouflaged as mechanical plant clad in reversible Tetra Pak shingles.

Aerial Reconnaissance from Antepavilion on Vimeo.

Anonymous applications for the latest commission should include two A3-sized boards. A judging panel will be announced shortly and site tours will be held on 12 January, 25 January, and 3 February.

Up to five shortlisted teams will each receive a share of a £3,000 fund and work with structural engineer AKT II to develop their scheme’s realisation and construction strategy during the competition’s second phase.

The overall winner will receive a £10,000 prize fund along with £15,000 worth of materials and labour to deliver their scheme.

How to apply


The deadline for applications is 9am on 11 February

Contact details

55 Laburnum Street
E2 8BD

Phone: +44 (0) 20 7378 0707
Fax: +44 (0) 20 7378 0404

Visit the competition website for more information

Q+A with Russell Gray

The managing director Shiva discusses his ambitions for the competition

Russell Gray

Russell Gray

Russell Gray

Why are your holding a context for a landmark new beacon at Hoxton Docks?

The objectives of the Antepavilion commission remain the same as before. You can read about them on our website but I have always emphasised that offering an opportunity for young or emerging artists, architects, designers and makers for a self-build, sponsored project with good public exposure potential are fundamental. Judges make for a richer selection process and media coverage is bound to be helpful to the kind of young practitioners the commission is aimed at.

What is your vision for this year’s Antepavilion?

The contest site is shown on the website and the CAD drawings for applicants to work from. Design innovation and quality are of fundamental importance to me. Other jurors may have different priorities but I very much doubt any will consider it unimportant. ‘Sustainability’ is a much-abused cliche. That said, speaking for myself again, I would certainly expect entrants to have considered the issue of recyclability given the transient nature of the structures likely to be selected as winners.

What sort of architects and designers are you hoping will apply?

The commission operates by the bare minimum of rules. That’s a fundamental raison d’être. It’s open to anyone. The biggest single criteria for selection is confidence that the entrant can realise their proposal within budget and without an excess of outside support. We don’t expect to propel the winners of the Antepavilion commissions to stardom. But I do think that the two winners to date have both enjoyed the completion and would believe it has taken an impotent place in their portfolios. Any opportunities that the commission provides to the winners, like the building of their structures, are procured entirely of their own initiatives.

Which other design opportunities are on the horizon and how will the architects/designers be procured?

The Antepavilion commission is conceived as a central element of a research and education initiative aimed at adding opportunities for those who find their opportunities for self-expression are much more confined by the politico-economic order we live in than they expected when they set out on their careers. There is no present intention to broaden this objective.


AirDraft case study: Q&A with Benedetta Rogers and Thomas Randall-Page

The winners of last year’s Antepavilion 2 commission discuss lessons learned designing a floating venue

How did your proposal respond to the Antepavilion 2 brief?

The brief called for the design of a pavilion on Ouse, a steel cargo barge from the 1930s.

Our key ambition was to ensure that Ouse would still be able to navigate the canal. The design followed on quickly from that. The height restrictions below bridges, coupled with the desire to make something dramatic and unexpected, led us to explore inflatable structures. On the one hand, the spatial possibilities of making a large enclosure with minimum material; on the other, the performative nature of inflating and deflating the fabric – a truly pop-up temporary event space.

Antepavilion 2 winner: AirDraft by Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers

Antepavilion 2 winner: AirDraft by Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers

Source: Image by Jim Stephenson

Antepavilion 2 winner: AirDraft by Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers

In response to its immediate context, early discussions revolved around the haptic quality of the space and the juxtaposition of the hard concrete spaces of the warehouse at Hoxton Docks with the inherent softness of inflatable structures. Both externally and internally the proposal was formally and physically soft; even the floor was forgiving and encouraged visitors to lie down on it. There was a deliberate play and a pleasure through this softness.

As a working vessel, Ouse was part of the industrial life of the canal infrastructure. Today, the canals have changed and become something else: new arteries of leisure and culture in our cities. We wanted our proposal to reflect this change by repurposing the industrial vessel as an agent of cultural, creative and artistic endeavour.

Which architectural, material, visual and other methods did you harness in your design?

We took inspiration from the playful and bold experiments of the 1960s, looking at the work of Jeffrey Shaw and the Ant Farm collective, as well as contemporary artists such as Plastique Fantastic and Tomás Saraceno. We were also hugely inspired by images of 19th-century airships with their ambition and elegance, which we spent time carefully analysing both formally and in terms of fabrication methods.

While we had previous experience designing and fabricating inflatable structures, it had never been on the scale or complexity we were now proposing. We saw the competition as an opportunity for us to experiment further by bringing on board specialist expertise from fabric engineering fabricators Cameron Balloons. It was a truly collaborative and enjoyable process with the design developed through a series of workshops at their warehouse in Bristol.

Antepavilion 2 winner: AirDraft by Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers

Antepavilion 2 winner: AirDraft by Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers

Source: Image by Jim Stephenson

Antepavilion 2 winner: AirDraft by Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers

Although the fabric was cut. sewn and welded offsite by Cameron Balloons, we undertook significant preparatory works with a fantastic team of volunteers. This involved preparing the hull of the barge as well as joinery for the stage and entrance area. We experimented with low-cost methods for creating patterns on the stage and creative solutions for fixing to the existing steel structure of the barge.

What advice would you have to participants in the latest Antepavilion commission?

We saw the competition as principally an opportunity for experimentation, and we took the approach that AirDraft should be an investigation into inflatables as a way of creating a unique and playful pavilion.

We also used the project as a tool to directly engage and delight the end users, by curating a 10-day festival of events aboard the inflatable barge. This ensured that the pavilion had a cultural life beyond solely the architecture community and was of relevance to a larger audience. It was this wider engagement during AirDraft’s journey up and down the Regent’s Canal that provided us with the greatest reward and ultimately made the project well worth our effort and time.

Our advice to this year’s competitors would be to be bold and experimental, to use the competition as an opportunity to develop a strand of work that you are interested in – whether it is about being more hands-on in the creative process, creating a poetic response to the site, or simply building a large inflatable banana … or was it an aubergine?

Antepavilion 2 winner: AirDraft by Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers

Antepavilion 2 winner: AirDraft by Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers

Source: Image by Jim Stephenson

Antepavilion 2 winner: AirDraft by Thomas Randall-Page and Benedetta Rogers


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