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Newsletter, January 2012 (Issue 186)

Ipswich Society Awards 2011

There were fewer nominations this year - a reflection of more straitened times in Britain. But it was one of the most enjoyable Awards evenings of recent years. Perhaps holding the event in St Peter's Church was one reason for the bigger attendance (120). It is often said that parking is a problem on the Waterfront, but there are probably more opportunities to park quite close to the church than there are near the Town Hall where we were last year.

Bob Allen, ex-Chairman of the Society and now one of our Vice- Presidents, did us proud. For an hour or so and speaking without notes, he described and commented on the fifteen nominated schemes. Not being one of the judges, he could adopt a neutral attitude in most cases, presenting the pros and cons and thus encouraging listeners to think for themselves and allowing the final decisions to contain some element of surprise. What follows here is a selection in jottings of some of his comments. I hope I've not misrepresented him!

James Hehir Building, Orwell Quay i.e. the second main building for University Campus Suffolk. "A striking and definite" addition to the Waterfront and already a welcome part of the university's facilities. Worthy of its site. Yet, "could it be a Lego building or a computer-drawn abstract or 3D modem art?"

Aspire, new flats in St George's Street/ Bedford Street. Better than the garage that existed here but is it good enough? Gables and what appear to be sash windows could be appealing. But a bland flank wall in St George's Street and clumsily matched roofline in Bedford Street.

Foxhall Road, six new houses on site of Blooming Fuchsia PH. A pastiche Victorian terrace. "Has architecture lost its way?" or is it what customers want? Good quality brickwork. Seems as if there is "more window frame than glass." Proportions of fenestration odd and curious Doric porch at end.

120 Spring Road, new pair of semi-detached houses. In scale with neighbouring houses. Standardised windows look jammed in.

Tydeman Close, Woodbridge Road, new flats next to the large Vista development. Some "bravery" in design which differentiates it from the "architectural frenzy" of Vista. Good to see garden sheds in little gardens.

New detached house in garden of 65 Christchurch Street. Bay window and .Suffolk White' bricks to echo the old house next door. Is it good enough for a fine Victorian street?

14 Dalton Road, new detached house. Makes a positive impact on the street scene. Windows appropriately recessed, but door case is flush.

Handford House, Cumberland Street, new care home, Featureless approach from the street. A large development which could be "a place of comfort." A curious little porch.

Fore Street/Duke Street, new paving scheme. Looks better than the original roundabout. Pleasing simplicity and curving steps. Unfinished? - a vacant plinth (waiting for the next addition like Trafalgar Square's?) and two trees still to come.

Coe's, Norwich Road, redevelopment of shop front. Plain, simple self-announcement. Not pretending to be a Victorian shop. Relates well to the higher new southern end.

Railway station, new passenger footbridge and lifts. Valuable function. Echoes the Victorian station in its brick towers (blue engineering bricks, 'Suffolk Whites' and reds). But why such weak angled roofs on towers and awkward lintels?

Grimwade Street, 'Goals' football centre. Again, a valuable function, but "a missed opportunity to construct a real showcase" on this prominent site. Awkward projecting air conditioning and poor cladding on balcony.

Thomas Wolsey Statue, St Peter's Street. Good to commemorate Wolsey at last. A face of "wisdom and experience". Some find it inspiring - the extended hand of a man keen on education. Others unsure about the long garment and his seated posture. But good to have some disagreement because it's not "bland or featureless." [Dr Blatchly points out Wolsey is wearing the 'cappamagna' which was 16 feet long, the weight carried by 2-4 train bearers.]

East Anglian Children's Hospice, St Augustine's Gardens, a new building called The Treehouse. Landscape has been incorporated into the design. Wood cladding is "not just a fad." Windows related to children's presence. "Architecture is important in creating a sense of joy and welcome."

277 Cavendish Street, wooden insulation of gable end. "Intrigued" by this addition. An alternative to internal cladding which reduces space.

So, we awaited the results of the Judges' deliberations. Such a variety of schemes in size and purpose! The decisions were announced as follows:

AN AWARD OF DISTINCTION for The Treehouse Children's Hospice. "Uses the site brilliantly."
Client: East Anglian Children's Hospices (EACH) Design: Barefoot and Gilles, Architects Contractor: Barnes Group Ltd, Barnes Construction Division.

A HIGH COMMENDATION for the Wolsey Statue. "Welcome and welcoming."
Client: Dr John Blatchly, Chair of Patrons of Wolsey Statue. Design: David Annand, Sculptor Contractor: Ipswich Borough Council

A COMMENDATION for Coe's new shop front - "A well designed building of 21st century architecture."
Client: Coe's Design: Poole and Pattle, Architects Contractor: D C Construction Ltd.

A COMMENDATION for the James Hehir Building, DCS. "A striking addition."
Client: DCS Design: RMJM Architects Contractor: Wilmott Dixon Construction Ltd.

The Mayor, Councillor John Le Grys, presented the awards. Jack Chapman, the Society's Chairman, thanked the Committee, Bob Allen and the panel of judges. Most members, I suspect, were happy with these decisions. But in any case, they proceeded to enjoy some excellent food and wine! Let's hope there'll be some interesting nominations next year despite the recession, so keep your eyes open.

Neil Salmon

    Front cover of issue 186 Cover, issue 186

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