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East London academics scoop second prize at an international competition

The entry from the team at the University of East London The entry from the team at the University of East London

Monday, January 13, 2014
5:40 PM

Staff from the University of East London have won second prize at an international architecture contest.

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Academics Gilles Retsin and IsaÏe Bloch have won 2nd prize with their entry described as ‘an especially creative and rooted response’.

The lecturers from UEL’s School of Architecture, Computing and Engineering (ACE) entered the Ghost Town Challenge focused on Karosta, a former Soviet military town in Latvia.

They were asked to present a vision for a multi-purpose cultural centre which would act as both a community hub and tourist attraction. The design had to acknowledge the unique urban context provided by the town’s history yet help revitalise the area itself.

Karosta translates as War Port. It was used as a closed secret military town for the Russian Empire and later for the Soviet military. As Latvia regained its independence in 1990 the military left, resulting in the population of Karosta dropping dramatically and many abandoned buildings - including a church, prison and homing pigeons station - falling into disrepair.

Gilles and IsaÏe’s vision combined heavy concrete with lighter gilded elements to integrate materials from both the Soviet-era construction and the Russian-Empire 17th Century style Orthodox Church in a controlled, fragmented way that recalls deconstructivist design methods. Their entry was deemed to ‘flip the city centre inside-out’ and illustrated ‘a radical, symbolic monument that re-imagines the coastal concrete bunker’.

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