Rewarding copper architecture – European Copper in Architecture Awards

Eight very different entries have been shortlisted for the 2017 European Copper in Architecture Awards, reports architect and judging panel moderator Chris Hodson.

The European Copper in Architecture Awards programme celebrates the beauty and versatility of copper and its alloys through some of the best contem- porary architecture. It also seeks to expose to a wider international audience inspira- tional projects, some of which might otherwise go unrecognised. The judging panel for this eighteenth iteration of the biennial awards consisted of four architects, all recipients of previous awards: Ebbe Waehrens (BBP ARKITEKTER, based in Copenhagen), Maxime Enrico, (LAN, Paris), Ville Hara (Avanto Architects, Helsinki) and Craig Casci (GRID Architects, London).

Entries were assessed from photographs, drawings and descriptions submitted by their architects. Considerations included overall architectural design, response to programme and context, importance of copper to the scheme, and its detailing. The judges were impressed by the quality of entries generally and the range of copper applications displayed. Choosing a shortlist from the 35 entries, with major public buildings alongside modest domestic schemes, presented a real challenge and generated lively debate. But the judges eventually agreed on eight projects, summarised here in no particular order. They stood out from the rest with a diver- sity of typologies and design approaches – and some exceptional architecture.

Row of six houses in a barn, Italy – Studio Roberto Mascazzini Architetto

Located on the edge of an ancient rural village now absorbed into Milan’s suburbs, a collapsing barn has been replaced by this new building. Use of the same location, size, shape and materials as the original building was a planning requirement and presented the architects with fundamental challenges. Their response envisaged some of the demolition material, taken from solid brick walls and porphyritic floors, having new life within a shell for the new building.

The crushed material is contained within metal net gabions of corten steel, distrib- uted uniformly across both roofs and walls, creating a ‘legacy’ aesthetic. This technique also provides continuity between facades and roofs, defining the monolithic shape of the original barn, reinforced by an absence of gutters, downpipes, window sills and other traditional details.

The recycled material gabions alternate with sections of copper of varying heights, again linking facades to roofs. All the openings of the houses are contained within the copper zones where they cannot compromise the integrity and strength of the building. They can be hidden by verti- cally folding, copper-clad shutters that open and close mechanically, offering shelter against the sun and rain.

Lahti Travel Centre, Finland – JKMM Architects

The New Travel Centre – located at the heart of Lahti and next to the existing, historic railway station – forms a transport hub connecting the rail network to both long-distance and local bus lines. It consists of a 60 metre canopy for the bus terminal, enclosed lift and stair structures, local bus stops on the street and supporting landscape elements. There is also a road tunnel underneath the centre. Together, these copper-clad elements create an easily perceived and high quality urban entity in the complex city environment, managing various changes in level.

The new terminal for intercity buses has a canopy and pillars clad in perforated copper. Next to it, the delicate and airy elevator tower uses glass in both the outer walls and load-bearing structures. Inside the glass box, the elevator shaft is covered in copper sheet and copper wire mesh: an elegant counterpart to the powerful and streamlined silhouette of the canopy. This and two other elevator towers, also made of glass and copper, connect the lower level street to the northern bus stop shelters on the street above. The side walls, parapet and face of the bridge structure create an impressive copper portal.

A full report on the terminal was included in ADF’s Metal in Architecture supplement published in September 2016 – this can be found at

Hydropolis, Poland – Pracownia Projektowa ART FM

A new copper entrance pavilion with an innovative “water printer” sculpture celebrates the regeneration of a remarkable 19th century reservoir in the Polish city of Wrocław. One of only a few well-preserved historical water supply plants in Europe and a protected monument, the redundant reservoir structure has now been converted into ‘Hydropolis’ – the only ‘knowledge centre’ in Poland devoted entirely to water. The new pavilion is roofed and clad in copper, intended to oxidise naturally and harmonise with the brickwork, including perforated panels – some sliding – in front of the glazed entrance. The sculpture is made up of twelve modules concealed behind the copper facade, each with controlled solenoid valves and nozzles creating effects with the water. The pre-programmed patterns and captions are a prelude to the theme of the exhibition, enabling visitor interaction and first contact with water.

Copper – this time pre-oxidised – also adds the finishing touch to the entrance hall, illuminating the interior and harmonising with matt black metal and concrete surfaces. Sunlight penetrates through irregular holes in the perforated panels, fills the space and creates a unique interplay of light and reflections.

Suvela Chapel, Finland – OOPEAA

This new complex is located in one of the most multicultural districts in the metro- politan area of Helsinki. The needs of this culturally diverse community form a core principle of the project. All spaces are on one level and the complex wraps into a single U-shaped entity forming an intimate central courtyard. The various functions orientate themselves around the courtyard, ranging from kindergarten and childcare to youth spaces and local community clubs. The building also provides office space for employees as well as social workers and family services, and a soup kitchen provides low-cost food. Finally, the chapel itself is used for concerts as well as religious ceremonies.

The exterior shell of the whole complex is entirely clad in copper to emphasise the unity of the various volumes of the build- ing. Copper was an ecological choice, being durable and recyclable, easy to maintain and therefore sustainable. The architects particularly valued its patina, which will develop over time and allow the age of the building to show, giving it a sense of being ‘alive’. Local spruce timber is predominant throughout the interiors, creating a warm and peaceful atmosphere.

Bosruck Tunnel, Austria – Riepl Riepl Architekten

The 5.5 km Bosruck Tunnel passes through the Ennstal Alps, connecting Upper Austria with Styria in the south east. The original, two-way traffic tunnel has been renovated and a second, new tunnel built alongside. Now part of the A9 Pyhrn motorway, it is used by around 18,000 vehicles each day.

This impressive engineering feat is announced by new portal structures at both ends of the tunnel. The highly architectonic approach taken is unusual for projects of this kind, suggesting a new building typology in celebration of transport infrastructure. The architecture is thoroughly modern and the design strategy almost theatrical. A series of screens – made up of perforated brass cassettes, profiled and arranged to reflect the verticality of the surroundings – partially conceal buildings and equipment essential to the tunnel’s operation and safety.

The rhythms of the vertical brass screens highlight the experience of travellers as they approach and drive straight through the building, via the dramatic ‘flying roof’ entrance and exit galleries, acting as transi- tion spaces between inside and out.

Brass was chosen for its long-life and durability, including resistance to road salt, following trials simulating the exposure of the material over 30 years.

Walmer Yard, London – Peter Salter Associates

A modestly-scaled scheme of four houses, Walmer Yard is intriguing and intimately designed and detailed. Copper is used to clad various roof forms, relying on the expertise of craftsmen to successfully execute the shingle and standing-seam styles, numerous roof pitches and complex junctions. Seen from above, the pyramidal copper roofs of one house traces its form through its changing gutter systems that span between light-wells and the copper-clad entry canopy.

Two of the houses facing the courtyard have surface-mounted fascia gutters in copper, shaped to falls and forming a cornice to the shutters below. The underside of the gutter forms a belly that projects in front of the window as a hopper, connecting with a copper downpipe that similarly crosses the window on its way to the ground. Rainwater can be heard trickling through the system of copper pipes which acts as a ‘weather register’. Each front door has an enlarged push plate in copper as part of a viewing panel assembly, containing door-bell, locking escutcheon and purpose- made pull handle in copper and brass which hides a letter plate.

Maersk Tower, Copenhagen – C F Møller

This major research building was designed as a sustainability landmark, in dialogue with the city and university, acting as a catalyst for positive urban development. The 15-storey tower rests on a series of low buildings containing common functions: three auditoriums, classrooms, canteen, show lab, conference rooms and a ‘book cafe’.

The tower’s exterior appearance enters into a dialogue with the existing research complex and other surrounding buildings, where red brick dominates. The facade is a grid comprising storey-height window fields that break up the building’s substantial scale. These storey-height bands are fitted with over 3,000 vertical copper fins. The choice of copper on this prominent building anticipates the natural colour and surface changes that will occur over time.

A third of the fins move, enabling the facade to constantly change character as they open and close, responding to the sun’s path around the building. When activated, each section splits in two with one half remaining static while the other half slides in front of the window glass, limiting heat gain into the laboratories. This approach adds to the building’s sustainability credentials, alongside the choice of copper as an exceptionally long- life material that will eventually be recycled.

Hverdagsscene (Communal Stage), Norway – HUS arkitekter AS

The project was part of a larger plan to renovate and upgrade Torvet, Trondheim’s town square, as a whole. The architects’ vision was to create a new, lively space focused on activity rather than form – a space bursting with people and life.

The stage itself is multifunctional without any dedicated use and is dominated by the main attraction – the cylindrical stage ‘loft’. With a skin consisting of perforated and patinated copper, the stage canopy is transformed from its rich green patina in daylight to an animated beacon at night by artificial lighting from the inner circle reflected throughout the screen.

The cylinder consists of three layers: the inner reflective surface is polished stainless steel with a random pyramid pattern; the

middle screen is copper with clear lacquer to keep its natural colour over the years; finally, the outer skin is made of hand-patinated green copper. The two copper layers are perforated for trans- parency in a random pattern of hexagons of varying sizes. Between the middle and inner layers, multi-coloured LED lighting is arranged in five height zones, facing inwards. Between the outer and middle layers, on top of the structure, LED wall-washers face downwards.

Further information

The Overall Winner, Commended projects and a Public Choice Award will be announced later in the year. More information and images of the shortlisted projects, all the other entries and previous awards can be viewed at