Soar Island competition attracts worldwide talent

Published on 22 April 2015

AN INTERNATIONAL architecture competition to find a winning vision for the future of Leicester’s Soar Island has attracted entries from across the globe.

Over 80 entries – including ideas from as far afield as Japan, Spain, Hong Kong, Italy and America – have been submitted.

The competition has been organised by Leicester City Council and RIBA (Royal Institute of British Architects) and invited architects to submit ideas for the potential future use of the two-acre Soar Island, at the heart of Leicester’s Waterside.

Entries from the first round of the competition have now been whittled down to a shortlist of five by a judging panel.  The shortlisted teams are:

• Ash Sakula, London
• drummond.lawlor, London
• Gutiérrez-Delafuente Arquitectos, Spain
• Kraft.Raum, Germany
• Sarah Wigglesworth, London

Ash Sakula would encourage the development of new ecologically sympathetic businesses in a woodland setting complete with ‘wild island gym’, raised catwalks through the forest canopy and a central treehouse with views across the island.

The entry from drummond.lawlor is inspired by the Tiber Island in Rome with cafes, workshops, offices and a feature exhibition space spilling out onto a public square, overlooked by a mix of townhouses and apartments.

Gutiérrez-Delafuente Arquitectos’ entry proposes a residential-led, mixed-use development surrounded by trees at the north end of the island and with a new public square to the south, which will open up views of the river and encourage a more active waterfront.

Kraft.Raum has drawn up a design which would see the whole of the island developed as a public open space, with a central pavilion and café area, timber decking leading down the water’s edge, a raised viewing platform offering views over Evans Weir and a kayak station to encourage more use of the river.

The final shortlisted entry, from Sarah Wigglesworth Architects, is inspired by low-impact living, sustainable communities and the idea of ‘a secret island to live on and play on’. It brings together narrow boat markets, micro-farming and craft workshops with open-air performance space, riverside starter homes and a floating swimming pool.

Each of the shortlisted entrants will now be awarded £5,000 to develop their ideas further.

Members of the public will be able to comment on the initial designs submitted by the five shortlisted entrants at a public exhibition due to take place in Leicester in early summer.

Glenn Howells, acting as RIBA advisor for the competition, said: “The range and type of proposals we saw was impressive. The competition entries showed how a wide variety of activities and environments could potentially be created on the island.

“It prompted much discussion amongst the judges as to what form of development would best deliver the maximum benefit for this exciting, emerging quarter of Leicester.”

Andrew Smith, director of regeneration at Leicester City Council, said: “Soar Island is a unique part of the city and has the potential to be an interesting focal point in the Waterside development area.

“We’ve been really pleased with the level of interest shown in the competition and the range of visionary ideas submitted which we are using to help us shape our thinking on how to make the most of this potential development site.

“This process has already captured the imagination of the architectural community and we are looking forward to hearing what local people think of the ideas. Ultimately, this competition will help to build developer interest and confidence in our plans for the regeneration of the Waterside area.”