London Eye architects to design Aldabra House |10 November 2014
Following the declaration of the Aldabra House project at the 30th anniversary of Aldabra as a Unesco World Heritage site, it has been announced that the architects to develop the project concept will be the UK-based firm, Marks Barfield Architects.
Aldabra House, which will be based on Mahé, will be a remote access visitor centre providing an Aldabra experience for the many people who cannot visit, due to the atoll’s remoteness and access difficulties.
The main aims of the centre are to increase public access to Aldabra by bringing Aldabra to Mahé.
This is seen to be important to raise awareness and visibility of its outstanding universal value as a natural heritage site, and to diversify and increase sustainable financing mechanisms for Aldabra by becoming a visitor destination itself.
To ensure that Aldabra House will be a centre of excellence with the highest international standards in sustainable architecture and an appealing design, the Seychelles Islands Foundation (SIF) launched an international competition and invited five architectural firms to share their concept ideas to find the most suitable partner for this exciting project.
All five submitted concepts were of an extremely high standard, making the final decision exceptionally difficult for the Aldabra House committee.
Following careful and detailed consideration of the conceptual design proposals, the Aldabra House committee selected Marks Barfield Architects.
Founded in 1989 by Julia Barfield and David Marks, Marks Barfield Architects conceived and designed the famous London Eye. They have a diverse portfolio of projects that includes the Royal Botanic Gardens of Kew Treetop Walkway as well as school, cultural, commercial, leisure, and transport buildings.
The company has won more than 60 awards for design, innovation and sustainability.
SIF chairman Ambassador Maurice Loustau-Lalanne said of the competition: “This competition has been an incredibly enriching experience, and the response has been overwhelming. We are excited and very much looking forward to realising the Aldabra House project in partnership with Marks Barfield. With a company of such a high calibre the design for Aldabra House is destined to be a design unlike any other, befitting a project of this scale and World Heritage Site of such importance.”
Representatives from four other firms also come to Mahé to learn more about the Aldabra House project and propose some initial ideas to the Aldabra House committee. The first architect to visit was Dirk Hebel who has previously won several awards for his work. Dirk is an assistant professor of architecture and construction at ETH Zürich University. His practice and research concentrates on the design of and construction with alternative building materials and construction techniques. He advocates local and sometimes forgotten materials for the architectural creation process such as air, water, bamboo, and sand. He is entering into the competition with partners Professor Philippe Block and Professor Arno Schlüter.
The next visit came from Danny Forster Design Studio (DFDS), which is a boutique design firm based in New York City. Founded in 2007, DFDS has focused its efforts on smart, sustainable design, including LEED-Gold certified housing, a 35-storey Marriott hotel adjacent to the World Trade Centre site, and a Museum of Ethnography in Budapest.
WWT Consulting, a subsidiary business of the Wildfowl & Wetlands Trust (WWT), also entered the competition for the architecture bid. WWT Consulting offers services derived from their parent company’s success over nearly 70 years of wetland reserve management and the operation of nine visitor centres. Since 1989 they have worked on projects all over the world. WWT has a strong visitor focus, ensuring that architecture is functional as well as aesthetic, and meeting the highest sustainable build standards.
The final team in the competition were Wilkinson Eyre Architects who are one of the UK’s leading architectural practices, with a portfolio of national and international projects, and an approach that combines a commitment to the spirit of the new with an awareness of context. Wilkinson Eyre’s designs cover diverse market sectors and have received extensive acclaim, including back to back success for both the RIBA Stirling Prize and the RIBA Lubetkin Prize.
SIF would like to thank all of the architecture firms that took part in this competition and are delighted to be entering the next phase of this project.
Contributed by SIF