Design Competition for 16 Henrietta St.

Tuesday, September 02, 2008

Background

The commission of an Open Ideas Architectural Design Competition to address the site of No. 16 Henrietta Street is enshrined as a policy in the Henrietta Street Conservation Plan, (2006).

In addition to this competition a number of policies aimed at safeguarding and improving the condition of Henrietta Street are being actively implemented. Such policies include: a revised treatment for the existing bollards protecting the cellars; a separate study of Henrietta Lane as an addendum to the conservation plan; structural conservation works to No’s 3 and 14; an exhibition and booklet aimed at raising awareness of the importance of the street amongst the general public.

The competition aims to establish a design framework for the development of the site, which is informed by the Conservation Plan and best architectural practice, and to generate debate and discussion on the challenge of contemporary design as in-fill in sensitive historic settings.

A photo of 16 Henrietta Street

Winning Design: Ryan W. Kennihan Architects

This entry was considered unanimously the most successful. It is distinguished by a number of factors outlined below:

The design is persuasive, optimistic, promising and sympathetic to the street. It responds excellently to the challenge of how to build in an historic setting. There is a beautiful resolution of form, context, and use, offering a positive contribution to Henrietta Street.

The design demonstrates strong 3 dimensional control. In every respect the side elevation and the negative corner are refinements of great beauty and it is vital in understanding the diverging treatments of the three facades.

The assessors were impressed in particular with the proposed use, which is appropriate to both the immediate and surrounding area. One of the concerns in the planning of this area is the loss of small work spaces even around Henrietta Lane. The loss of the repair workshop, joinery workshops changes this bigger context. Many submissions struggled with defining a use for the building. What was proposed as use in many instances in the competition (exhibition gallery, interpretive centre, library) is predictable, whereas here there is real thought given to the use which is site specific. Yet the design could be adapted to other uses.

The design derives great depth and beauty through articulation of the selected material – brick. The proposed use validating and informing the material very successfully also. In form and scale the design offers respect to the original composition of the 1740s house and the street and offers vastly interesting things internally that a complete replication could ever offer, and vastly interesting things to the side elevation.

The assessors had minor reservations regarding the resolution of the building at ground level but felt this could be reworked with no great difficulty. The elevation to Henrietta Street was debated also, the assessors feeling that there was not complete clarity of intent –If the structure is the aesthetic, as is suggested in the report, then what are the blind windows doing?. It is odd that they don’t consider the blank windows a nod to its predecessor. It was noted also that this device, although common of its time, would not have been employed so expansively on such a significant elevation. Notwithstanding these reservations, the assessors concluded that this proposal has significant substance, beautifully executed.

A photo of 16 Henrietta Street A photo of 16 Henrietta Street

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