Author Archives: Gemma Norris

Meet The 2016 Winners: Smartvoll

Posted on July 21, 2017 by Gemma Norris

The next in our ‘Meet The 2016 Winners’ blog series features Austrian-based firm Smartvoll. Their project, Loft Panzerhalle, blew the judges away in the Residential Interiors category and here we speak with founding partner Christian Kircher to find out a little bit more about the team and their spectacular winning project…

The Smartvoll team

How did Philipp and yourself come together to form Smartvoll?

We got to know each other at the technical university in Vienna. Having been grouped together for an intense 6 month design workshop, we bonded playing an old school computer game called SkiJumpDeluxe during our breaks. After that we started collaborating on both university and real-life projects, we wrote our master thesis together and founded the predecessor of Smartvoll the day we stepped out of university.

Loft Panzerhalle – Winner – 2016 WIN Awards Residential Interiors category

Loft Panzerhalle has received international acclaim. What is it about the project that you think has been so well-received?

I think that people have realized and acknowledged that design is not just about aesthetics and a project can achieve very deliberate goals if you program it in a way that follows a distinct vision. It’s also become clear that people are generally fed up with designers & architects giving the same well known answers to even better known challenges. Furthermore we’re now approached by people who actually see taking a risk not only as a danger but as a chance, who are bold and willing to really go with us where no man has gone before!

What was the greatest challenge when embarking on the project?

Definitely getting the project built. We perfectly modelled the whole staircase in 3D and thought that the formwork for the concrete would be 3D milled out of polystyrene or similar (in a very modern way of working with 5 axial robots who cut away from the polystyrene). After the first bids were brought in the whole team saw that it was basically not feasible, since all company’s who bid, were afraid of the complexity and adjusted their prices accordingly. This continued for a couple of weeks and suddenly voices arose suggesting that we do it in wood or steel – which would have been a horror. The client then said: ok, having watched 3 carpenters on the ongoing construction site, I reckon they are efficient enough to complete the work in 3 weeks in a direct labour contract (so without a bid or indication of how much it will cost). The carpenters pulled it off and completed it in 3 weeks, which for us was a brilliant example of what you can achieve as an architect if you have a great client who shares your vision and is proactive. In the end it was not an uber-modern robot who did the work but an old fashioned handcraft, paired with a lot of engagement and experience by the carpenters.

What are you working on at the moment that you’re particularly excited about?

It has been a great year so far for us, since we have been designing one project after the other and that’s really what we like most. In an old Warehouse we are building one of the longest swimming lanes in Austria that is surrounded by moveable crane-like platforms that can adapt the space to fit an array of sporting activities. In south Austria we are planning a Community Center which takes a radically new approach to rebuilding a community and counters the donut effect that many villages currently experience in Austria. Right now we are working on a water-based fitness contraption which has the potential to change the mechanical way we train. Diversity excites us!

You’re based in Vienna, a city renowned for its stunning architecture both old and new. Is
there a particular space or building in the city that inspires you?

We love to live in Vienna but we tend to look abroad for inspiration. For example, we were stunned by how informal old buildings sit side by side with brutalist and British high-tech architecture in London. It’s a complete contrast to the way Vienna literally embalms its architectural heritage and we firmly believe that you can only evolve by exposing yourself to the unknown.

What would you say to anyone considering entering the WIN Awards now?

Just do it. We have started way too late entering the awards circus and for a long time we did not realize what a door opener this really is. Especially with all the international platforms and awards around, there is no need to limit yourself to the boundaries of your immediate neighborhood! Apart from that Steven and the WIN gang are a great bunch to hang out with!

Meet The 2016 Winners: Chu Chih Kang Space Design

Posted on June 30, 2017 by Gemma Norris

For this week’s ‘Meet The Winners’ blog post we speak with Yu Shan Su of design practice Chu Chih Kang Space Design, winners in the WIN Awards 2016 Retail Interiors Greater Than 200 SQ.M category.

The concept behind your project Fangsuo Bookstore was so beautiful – can you tell us more about the story?

I always aspired to design a bookstore when I was young. Taikoo Lu Chengdu were building a new shopping area which surrounded the historic Daci Temple. The very well-known Buddhist, Xuanzang, practiced in the temple before he started his journey to India which inspired the classic Chinese novel “Journey to the West”. The location of Fangsuo Bookstore is in the basement just beside the temple. The story immediately fired my imagination; Xuanzang stored precious scriptures in a secret cellar under the Daci Temple. In ancient China scriptures symbolized knowledge and wisdom and this became the overarching theme for the project.

Fangsuo Bookstore in Chengdu

The judges were awe-inspired by the sheer scale of Fangsuo Bookstore, what challenges do you face when tackling a project of this size?

It was indeed a big challenge. For such a huge space in a basement a floor-in-floor structure was forbidden and many stairs were required for fire safety. There was the additional difficulty of how to make customers aware that there was a bookstore in the basement. Lastly, a great challenge was to make customers ‘visible’ in such an expansive space so the store did not feel empty.

The aim was to keep visitors in the store for as long as possible. Firstly, to achieve this we included 2 coffee shops; secondly, the staircases were given multiple functions for people to sit on and relax. Lastly, an iconic landmark was placed by the entrance encouraging visitors to take photo’s and share on social media.

I solved the problem for my client whilst still keeping the legendary story: a cave hiding precious knowledge. But I think the most decisive was the story, a story of our culture and of our history. There were no cliché elements to make it “Chinese”, but people could get the story and the atmosphere while entering the store. I think it is the most successful part of the design.

Fangsuo Bookstore in Chengdu

Your work ranges from Exhibition to Retail to Residential projects, is there a particular sector that you enjoy working on most and why?

Not at all! My friends all know that I am a curious person; I love a challenge and have no patience for immutable things. Therefore so long as the concept is interesting, no matter what type of space it is, I will do it.

After the success of Fangsuo Bookstore in Chengdu, to be honest, many people came to me for bookstore design. Some even requested “do something that looks like Fangsuo Bookstore in Chengdu.” Of course I rejected them. Regardless of the sector I want to be producing something different each time, otherwise it’s simply no fun!

Fangsuo Bookstore in Chengdu

What’s the next project you’re working on?

My next project is a public space on the first floor of the Tao Zhu Yin Yuan tower located in Taipei, Taiwan and designed by the architect Vincent Callebaut. I was invited by the GAA Foundation to exhibit the concept model for the project during Venice Biennale. It’s perhaps unusual to exhibit an architecture project at an art show, but to me, the space itself is a huge art piece. Rather than creating a modish design I’m approaching this project more as an art piece with the concept of the circle of life at it’s centre.

Chu Chih-Kang exhibiting at Venice Biennale

Our 2017 categories will soon be coming to a close. What would you say to anyone considering entering the WIN Awards?

Practically, it has been a fantastic way to publicize my own project. In particular I was really happy to hear the judges’ feedback. The concept of Fangsuo Bookstore in Chengdu is related to Chinese history and legend and I am thrilled that the jury panel understood and appreciated the concept from their point of view.

Don’t hesitate, enter the WIN Awards now!