The lecture theatre at Suffolk College was full and Society members eagerly awaited the news of our judges' verdicts. Even though there were fewer nominations this year — twelve compared with nineteen last year — they represented a good range of both private and public work, and both residential and environmental improvement schemes. So once again this was a worthy reminder of the Society's aim in raising awareness of the value of an appealing street scene.
Our Chairman, Jack Chapman, introduced Councillor Penny Breakwell (Mayor of Ipswich and President of The Ipswich Society) and Professor Dave Muller, Principal of Suffolk College which had kindly sponsored the evening's events. In a brief address, Professor Muller made clear the determination of the College to press for the creation of a university on and near the Nepture Quay corner of the Waterfront. There are at present 1874 full-time students in Higher Education at the College and 2346 part-time. With these (increasing) numbers a university would certainly be viable. (In that case the northern part of the present campus could be devoted to a separate Suffolk College of Further Education.) Support is forthcoming from Suffolk County Council and Ipswich Borough Council, and from the Universities of East Anglia and Essex. Proposals will be put before Central Government very soon. Ipswich Society members will surely be pleased to hear of these intentions and hope that at long last our area will lose its "poor relation" status of having no university. The simple truth is that a university would bring more brains and more money into Ipswich, with other less tangible advantages.
Chris Wiltshire, a past Chairman of the Society, then took us into the main business of the evening. He underlined the Society's desire for buildings in the town to be unique and striking — buildings that people would travel to see and that would enhance the town's self-esteem and its commerce. He welcomed the fact that several of the nominations were on the Waterfront, which for far too long has been ignored by many local people. He reminded us that in Maritime Year 1982 our Society drew up a futuristic plan for redevelopment of the Wet Dock and he regretted that progress has been so long delayed.
His comments on the nominations for awards were as usual thought-provoking and often amusing. For those of you who weren't there, here is a sample of what was said.
Isaac Lord's, Fore Street
The only surviving complete merchant's trading complex. Has won Society awards for previous parts of the renovation. This is a new major refurbishment of the salesroom and crossway. Good use of largely original materials and a high standard of craftsmanship.
Salthouse Harbour Hotel, Nepture Quay
The conversion of this old building left the judges with mixed feelings, some "reasonably pleased," but concern was expressed about the block building attached to the western flank wall.
Greenwich House and Holbrook House, Duke Street/John Street
The first part of the redevelopment of the former gasworks site. Difficult to judge until more of the project is completed. The use of banded brickwork and timber cladding nicely reflects the old dock context. Some judges disliked the little railings along the top.
Quay West, Stoke Quay
Respects the height of Felaw Maltings nearby and makes a strong statement itself, although the main entrance looks under-stated. Part of an Ipswich of the future but raises questions about what is appropriate here. Is this Rimini?
Curzon House, St Peter's Street
The name should be Curson House since this was part of the site of the great house of Lord Curson, courtier and spy of Henry VIII. It echoes some of the "Italianate features" of Buttermarket Shopping Centre. Not keen on the "post-Modernist windowettes". More pleasing is the re-use of the 19th century facade in Rose Lane.
Fore Street re-paving scheme
Some paving too "busy" and less successful than in some other streets. Planters don't fit in too well and already some stains have run off on to expensive York Stone. But the removal of old poles and yellow lines was welcomed.
25 Berners Street
Conversion of ground floor shop to residential use has been quite careful and successful.
Public toilets, St Margaret's Street
A welcome new facility and a nice idea to echo some of the North London Underground stations, but looks too "bricky" and bare — despite our President's plaque commemmorating the opening!
The Navigator sculpture, riverside near Princes Street bridge
The Society welcomes more public art but this isn't sufficiently visible to the public. Liked the surface rusting effects on the corton steel.
IP Central apartments, Waterworks Street
Uses the site well but lots of "Georgianette" surface details which might be more suitable on an "executive style" house.
Jamie Cann House, Demoiselle Crescent, Ravenswood
Next to the Listed former airport terminal building but makes no reference to it. Full of cottagey "retrospective make-believe" — although it has to be acknowledged that many people would like that.
Children's play area, Christchurch Park
Popular, and despite colourful features not very intrusive in the park. Good picnic tables and seats. The maritime theme rather "off the peg".
We had listened carefully to Chris Wiltshire's comments on behalf of the Society's judges and we had enjoyed Tony Hill's photographs of all the nominations which John Norman had skilfully presented in a computerised programme. Now came the announcements of the awards, which were presented to the winning clients, designers/architects and contractors by the Mayor.
AWARD OF DISTINCTION for the refurbishment of the saleroom and crossway at Isaac Lord's
Client: SJ and GA Cooper
Design: Anthony Rossi
Contractor: R & J Hogg
COMMENDATION for Quay West residential development, Stoke Quay
Client: Bellway Homes, Essex
Design: RMA Architects Ltd
Contractor: Bellway Homes, Essex
COMMENDATION for Greenwich House and Holbrook House, Duke Street
Client: Persimmon Homes (Essex) Ltd
Design: RMA Architects Ltd
Contractor: Persimmon Homes (Essex) Ltd
Members and guests then adjourned to the next room where we enjoyed the excellent refreshments provided by Suffolk College catering students. It was a pleasant conclusion to the Society's Annual Awards Evening, one of our most important events of the year.