Results were recently revealed for Homemade Dessert and Liepaja City Council's Brutalist Facelift and Ghost Town Challenge — two related competitions in a series to revive the cityscape of Karosta, a former Soviet military town outside of Liepaja, Latvia.
Brutalist Facelift had entrants redefine the image and future of the historically debatable brutalist-style architecture for Karosta. For Ghost Town Challenge, participants submitted their visions for a new city cultural center.
Each jury selected three winners — who won prize money and media attention — for each competition. Check 'em out below.
‘Brutalist’ architecture, despite the type’s significance to the study of building design, has drawn a great amount of criticism since its appearance in the mid-20th to Asia, many examples of Brutalist buildings face demolition, having reached an end to their original lifespans and requiring major renovations. Some owners cite the difficulties of adapting these structures to new programmatic or functional needs. Others simply demand the removal of these buildings due to their ‘inhuman’ nature and lack of transparency, claiming them as eyesores to their communities in both urban and suburban settings.
There are instances, though, of Brutalist buildings having been successfully overhauled and restored. This competition sought new ideas for this practice, focusing specifically on an abandoned apartment block in Liepaja, Latvia, a Russian and Soviet-influenced port city on the Baltic Sea, and a region that is home to many such buildings."
1st prize winner (US$2,500) - Ilana Simhon (United States):
"The winning submission responds directly to the question: how can this type of mundane apartment block be made more dynamic? The proposal infuses the existing structure with a human element, animating it by grafting balconies onto the existing façade. Furthermore, it offers users the opportunity to personalise units with individual gardens visible from ground level, by overlaying the façade with a system for supporting the vertical growth of plantings. The submission was considered by the jury to be most successful for its ability to transform this otherwise sterile façade into a stage for individual and community expression."
Brutalist Facelift 2nd prize winner (US$1,000) - Joanna Burton (Spain):
"The project is a clever experiment with visual perception, and treats the buildings as massive surfaces for the display of images. Similar to both billboards and projection screens, the proposed method of painting 5-storey-high grayscale images turns the apartment block exterior walls into holograms; viewers can perceive from specific locations the transformation of the façade’s painted texture into a three-dimensional artwork. The proposal offers an opportunity for changing surface treatments over time, the buildings becoming a curated gallery for imagery."
Brutalist Facelift 3rd prize winner (US$500) - Emily Kutil + Jordan Hicks (USA):
"Almost sarcastic in its reinterpretation of regional architecture, the project invents a set of cultural-historical symbols and inserts these onto the blank Brutalist façade as a figural motif. Frames of various colors, materials and textures create a collage effect that is both dynamic and humoristic. The project merges two opposing architectural design methods: one local, decorative and ornate; the other international, material and minimalist; to propose a unique blend of local architectural expression."
Ghost Town Challenge
Karosta, this former military headquarters was constructed first under the Russian Empire at the turn of the 20th century, and later functioned as a Soviet naval base until its population of 20,000 deserted the town in the 1990s with the dissolution of the Soviet Union. While many of its buildings have fallen into disrepair, the built skeleton of Karosta serves as an important record of a very specific form of military architecture and planning. The town features such buildings as the St. Nicholas Orthodox Marine Cathedral, the Karosta Prison, military bunkers and Soviet-era housing blocks near to the sea and a man-made warship canal. While the site has become a destination for tourists and artists, many wish to more actively revive Karosta’s community life and restore its buildings.
Over 160 submissions were received offering ideas for a multi-purpose cultural complex at the heart of Karosta, with the potential to generate increasing population and further tourism for this town of about 6,000 inhabitants situated 10 kilometres north of Liepaja. The requested program includes an exhibition hall, a library, conference centre, recreational areas, and spaces for retail and restaurants. Designers could choose to respect the City Council site requirements, but were also given the opportunity to present visionary ideas that worked outside of these requirements."
1st prize winners (US$6,000) - Fabien Grousset + Hélène Besson + Julien Colom + Guillaume Friolet (France):
"Taking cues from former Soviet bunker design, the proposal reinterprets the heavy and closed concrete form as an open centre for civic activity, elegantly incorporating light, landscape and public space at a variety of scales. The jury was impressed with the submission’s professionalism, and the clarity and refinement of its diagrams. The project successfully made use of the entire site, and the judges appreciate its flexibility, offering the types of open space necessary for community life - the internal arrangement of functions has the capacity to engage the visitor with a range of activities, and its multi-purpose hall is effective as an indoor urban plaza. The proposal is smart in its simplicity, and certainly seems executable. One can imagine its potential for becoming an exciting new cultural core for Karosta and the surrounding region."
Ghost Town Challenge 2nd prize winners (US$3,000) - Gilles Retsin + Isaie Bloch (UK):
"Both the architectural expression and the programming of this proposal made it stand out as an especially creative and rooted response. Its function is paradoxical to its form: a radical, symbolic monument that re-imagines the coastal concrete bunker; yet programmed with civic commonplace amenities including a canteen, a daycare center, and a workshop. It flips the city center inside-out, proposing to infuse the larger- scale ‘cultural’ spaces – a museum, a conference centre – into the existing fabric in need of renovation. The architecture combines heavy concrete with lighter gilded elements to integrate materials from both the Soviet-era blocks and the Russian-Empire Orthodox Church in a controlled, fragmented way that recalls deconstructivist design methods."
Ghost Town Challenge 3rd prize winners (US$1,000) - Johann Bertelli + Gustavo Deleu Nogueira + Julie Deglesne (France):
"A truly realisable proposal, the ‘Light Core’ engages its surroundings quietly and respectfully. The design in plan and section clearly pays homage to the cathedral towards its south, while utilising sun orientation to offer a string of naturally lit interior spaces that starkly differentiates the new cultural centre from Karosta’s solid concrete constructions. The jury valued the articulate presentation of this submission and the clarity of its design. The angled position of the main form establishes a strong site organization that breaks from yet connects the otherwise rigid East-West and North-South blocks nearby, and this positioning is enhanced by embedding the building into a constructed wooden landscape of outdoor event and gallery spaces."
All images courtesy of Homemade Dessert.
You can also check out the latest competition in the series "Rebirth of the Bath House".