Year on year GAGA entrants have shown how projects across the UK and Ireland test the technical limits and creative potential of a 300 year old technology. Whether they are monumental public projects or small-scale detail entrants, each year we are reminded how versatile the use of galvanizing can be.
This year there was an even greater air of excitement about the awards, as we celebrated our 25th anniversary. Conceived initially as a means of forging greater connections between the galvanizing industry and architects, artists and engineers, we believe the GAGAs have, in fact, grown to represent much more. Today, we pride ourselves on the fact that our event widens conversation and that it has become a barometer of changing practices and philosophies within construction itself.
Our 25 year milestone has also afforded us an excuse (as if it were needed) to look back at previous winners. One of our first winners to stand out is Stukeley Street, the former Savoy Hotel furniture store near Covent Garden. It was given a dramatic facelift by Jestico + Whiles and turned into a light filled, six story office-space with the extensive use of glass and galvanized steel.
Past entries have also highlighted how social housing can be innovative, elegant and highly desirable places to live. Examples that stand out are Homes for Change in Hulme, Manchester which continues to support sustainable, diverse communities with a more inclusive kind of approach. They sit alongside projects like Heron Court by Bell Phillips Architects and shine a light on the idea that all this can be achieved within the constraints of the public purse.
At Jubilee Campus, Nottingham University, Hopkins Architects turned a former bicycle factory site into an academic park for 2,500 students, marrying energy-saving construction with outstanding design and function. Furthermore, projects like Exposure by Anthony Gormley show how new design software is pushing the boundaries of what is possible with galvanized steel. At 26 m tall and weighing 60 tonnes, this feat of engineering contains 5,400 bolts and a further 2,000 components, all of which are galvanized.
Another arts proposition that caught our attention was the Garsington Opera house at Wormsley, Buckinghamshire. It is unusual as an arts venue as it is was designed to be dismounted and rebuilt annually. The structure has significantly upgraded facilities and acoustics in line with the expectations of 21st century opera goers.
Back in 1994, our judging panel included architect Julia Barfield, one of the leading visionaries on iconic projects like the London Eye and the i360 Tower. We were delighted that Julia was once again involved in the awards this year. As a keynote address, she gave an insightful talk on the importance of sustainability within the built environment.
We were also fortunate to have a keynote presentation from Jolyon Brewis, a specialist in large-scale super-efficient enclosures, such as those seen at the Eden Project. His insider’s take on the role of the Eden Project 20 years on was an authoritative account of the role of the landmark project in place-making.
Over the years, we have had some landmark projects that have ushered in a new era for galvanizing within contemporary architecture.
Projects like the Lewis Glucksman Gallery in Cork, a headline-grabbing build in Ireland, showcased not only O’Donnell + Tuomey’s flair for impeccable design, but also a visionary use of galvanized steel. Timber clad, galvanized cantilevered gallery spaces, exhibit and intensify the landscape as well as the curated objects within.
The Eden Project, that geodesic wonder by Grimshaw Architects as mentioned earlier, stood out as a sublime lesson in ecology, drawing attention to the human dependency upon plants. Galvanized Steel ensures the longest life possible for this £57m showcase for global biodiversity. Hengrove Leisure Complex is a state-of-the-art pool and leisure centre in South Bristol. Keir Construction used galvanized steel to deliver a guaranteed 60 year lifespan. This project was awarded a BREEAM ‘excellent’ rating.
Lastly, two notable industrial projects designed with sustainability in mind; Greenwich Low Carbon Energy Centre and the Waste Water Treatment Works at Peacehaven. At Greenwich, a visitor’s centre complete with sculptural stack, designed by artist Conrad Shawcross, encourages public engagement and demystifies renewable energy production. It completes what is an ambitious example of cutting-edge, industrial architecture by C.F. Møller Architects; designed to save over 20,000 tonnes of carbon every year.
At Peacehaven, an area approximately the size of three football pitches, features complex curved and domed roofs forming parabolas with curved side walls and bull nose details. Covered in sedum, the rooftop is sensitive to its environment and blends into the South Downs. It forms the largest green roof in Britain. The Peacehaven Wastewater Treatment Works is an integral element of Southern Water’s £300m environmental improvement scheme.
From past winners to entrants competing this year, we have had a rich catalogue to choose from. What has struck us all this year more than ever, is how wonderful it is to look at such an extensive range of projects through the lens of galvanizing. It is truly inspiring to see the breadth of applications of galvanized steel and to appreciate our honest coating not in a purely supporting role, but as a leading participant in the finest construction of our times.