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Competition: El Almacén Square, Lanzarote

An open international contest has been announced for a €350,000 overhaul of El Almacén Square in Arrecife, Lanzarote (Deadline: 23 March)

Open to students, architects and other disciplines, the anonymous competition seeks radical ideas to transform the underused 1,000m² public plaza into a social, cultural and leisure space capable of hosting various events.

The project, backed by the Cabildo of Lanzarote, aims to create a recreational hub for the island’s capital city by upgrading the unattractive and unwelcoming square, which is currently used for unregulated car parking and due to be reconstructed to accommodate a new subterranean storm water tank. Once completed, the scheme will satisfy a long-held ambition of the city to deliver an open-air civic space serving the nearby El Almacén arts complex which opened 28 years ago.

El Almacén Square in Arrecife, Lanzarote

El Almacén Square in Arrecife, Lanzarote

El Almacén Square in Arrecife, Lanzarote

According to the brief: ‘This space has always been a green area in the urban plan of the city. That is why the people of Lanzarote promote an initiative to change this situation and turn this space into a lung and cultural heart of Arrecife.

‘Aware of the need to value creation and culture and offer the city a place of leisure and enjoyment, the Cabildo of Lanzarote is launching a contest of ideas to create a space for people, not for vehicles; a green space, which protects from the sun, where children play, where concerts are held, markets are opened … in short, a place of encounter, of passion, of art and a place for the citizen, a changing square, a more human square.’

Lanzarote is a Spanish island within the Canary Islands archipelago in the Atlantic Ocean off the west coast of Africa. El Almacén Square is a small city centre square currently featuring a paved area, street lighting, several trees and an unofficial car park.

The latest project aims to transform the underused plaza into a new social, cultural and recreational space. The scheme coincides with the creation of a new stormwater tank beneath the square and the demolition of a small single-storey building along its northern border.

The Lanzarote Dynamic Square contest, organised by Seville-based Rethinking Competitions, is open to teams of students, architects and related professions. Teams should include an architect who is either Spanish or able to team up with a local practice to deliver the scheme.

El Almacén Square in Arrecife, Lanzarote

El Almacén Square in Arrecife, Lanzarote

El Almacén Square in Arrecife, Lanzarote

Proposals should deliver shaded areas and provide the possibility for outdoor film screenings, concerts, markets and temporary restaurants and bars. A permanent Wifi connection and electrical output will also be required.

Judges include Javier López Rivera, professor at the School of Architecture of Seville; local cultural coordinator José Carlos Márquez; city engineer Antonio Cárdenas; and Juan Palop Casado, professor of urbanism at the School of Architecture of Las Palmas de Gran Canaria.

There will be a first prize of €6,000, a second prize of €4,000, and third prize of €2,000, along with 10 honourable mentions. All prize-winning teams will be considered for the €30,000 commission to deliver the scheme.

How to apply

Deadline

The deadline for applications is 23 March

Fee

Early registration from 18 December to 8 February: €40
Regular registration from 9 February to 1 March: €70
Late registration from 2 March to 23 March: €90

Contact details

Rethinking Competitions
Calle José Laguillo 27
Bloque 7 Local 1B
Sevilla 41003

Tel: +34 955 54 29 92 , +34 627 706 234
Email: contact@rethinkingcompetitions.com

Visit the competition website for more information

Centenary Square case study: Q&A with Graeme Massie

The founding director of Graeme Massie Architects discusses lessons learned designing a competition overhaul of Centenary Square in Birmingham, England

How will your project transform Centenary Square into a public space fit for the 21st century?

Although Centenary Square was originally planned in the 1920s as a formal civic space, today it no longer fulfils that purpose, and is now bounded by a diverse range of buildings leading to a space that lacks a clear identity. Our project provides a new flexible event space within the heart of Birmingham and redefines the setting for some of the city’s most important public buildings as well as planned new development sites. As part of Birmingham’s Big City Plan, the transformation of Centenary Square encourages greater connectivity with the rest of the city, incorporating an important new tram interchange and increasing permeability to adjacent public spaces. Through close engagement with local authorities and stakeholders, the proposed space is one which has a clear, singular identity yet is diverse in spatial character.

Centenary Square by Graeme Massie Architects

Centenary Square by Graeme Massie Architects

Centenary Square by Graeme Massie Architects

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

By the layering of urban landscape elements, our proposal seeks to redefine the space as a unified public room, or Great Hall, for the city. A grid of slender columns, providing light and event infrastructure, defines the square and urban volume while giving structure to the diverse functions required at ground level. Below this grid lies a layered landscape with a granite paving surface, groves of maple, ginkgo, cherry and birch trees and a large ‘mirror pool’ water-feature. The resultant space provides a backdrop to both communal events and personal experiences at all times of the year. It is both formal and informal; intimate and expansive.

Centenary Square by Graeme Massie Architects

Centenary Square by Graeme Massie Architects

Centenary Square by Graeme Massie Architects

What advice would you have to contest participants on transforming El Amacen square into a new social and cultural hub?

Lanzarote is a very different environment to Birmingham. The volcanic landscapes of the island provide a very particular context but just as important is the more immediate urban context of Arrecife. The approach to the project here, however, does not necessarily need to be different from the approach taken in Birmingham; analysis and dialogue with every project’s individual context is vital. The varied programme of temporary activities and events is a challenge we also tackled in Centenary Square. How do you create a distinctive character for a space when there are so many changing elements?

Centenary Square by Graeme Massie Architects

Centenary Square by Graeme Massie Architects

Centenary Square by Graeme Massie Architects