(held in St Peter's on the Waterfront, 12 November)
This was the first time our Awards evening was held in a building which itself was about to receive an award. But that's to anticipate. The hundred or more people were welcomed by our chairman, Jack Chapman, and by St Peter's manager, Bernard Westren, who drew attention to the Ipswich Charter hangings and the wonderfully informative display boards of the history of the church, both exhibited in the north aisle.
Our MC was Chris Wiltshire who began by saying goodbye. He meant this would be his final presentation after doing it for six consecutive years, nine years overall. As there were a pleasing number of members who hadn't been to an Awards evening previously, Chris explained that he was representing the views of the judging panel, very aware that they were looking at professional work and reputations, but needing to be straight and critical where necessary. The Society is pushing for excellence in design so that "not too bad" or "only what's to be expected" would no longer serve as criteria. Ipswich, like the rest of Britain, had just come to the end of a boom in development with a goodly number of schemes nominated by members. In the circumstances, the judges were rather disappointed. Too many interesting schemes were let down by their execution and were not truly outstanding.
Introducing the thirteen nominations, well illustrated by photos taken by Tony Hill and Chris himself, he began with two churches, reminding us that Ipswich is very well endowed with medieval churches - more than anywhere else after York, Norwich and Bristol. The churches have now finally found new uses. (See article elsewhere in this Newsletter.)
St Lawrence interior. Conversion of this church into a popular caf still leaves a good sense of its having been a church, now with modern lighting, new floor and monuments well preserved. However, the judges regretted the amount of clutter - perhaps necessary but hardly conducive to the setting.
St Peter's. The judges were impressed with the restoration of this stately and historically important church, although less enthusiastic about the new chairs and the bare bulbs in the otherwise good lighting.
St Peter's, 'Angel Gates' in south porch by Paul Richardson are imaginatively designed - but how would the lustre wear? University Campus Suffolk new building. This was warmly welcomed. The building fits in interestingly with its disparate neighbours, its reception areas are impressive, the adjacent concourse opens up the dockside successfully and with good street furniture. But there were reservations - the original design had a more noticeable slope facing the dock, with bigger windows and more colour, and the judges hoped that the sedum roof would stay green at the top in dry weather.
College Street, Wolsey Apartments. Excellent brickwork on this big new building of character. The shop units with bold cornices are fine, but will they be used?
The Albany, Tuddenham Road. New houses, probably good to live in and will suit the market but considered to be 'Victoriana-lite' and unremarkable in design.
The Reg Driver Visitor Centre, Christchurch Park. It sits very well in its surroundings and has a welcoming feel, although the end block is too severe.
75 Grimwade Street. Student accommodation next to the 'Captains' Houses', one of the best groups of old houses in town. The judges found this new building's style of rectangular glass unsuited to this very special location.
Christchurch Park, Round Pond and adjacent area. The original fish pond for the priory was 'tamed' for the later gentry. It was good to see new railings (though rather bland) and new coping stones. The nearby Horseshoe Pond is perhaps too heavily fenced.
Garrett Anderson Centre, Ipswich Hospital. A valuable addition for A&E and Day Surgery. A monolithic block 'softened' with unnecessary surface detail, especially the thin struts which a builder ironically said would "stop the wind from blowing it over". Nice vertical windows beside the main doors but less successful at the back.
Reynolds Close, 12 new flats. This was thought to be a very pleasant small scheme of two-bed flats with basic materials well used and good brickwork.
Pickford House, 30 Charles Street. A new development on an awkward sloping site, attempting an 18th century terrace-effect but with smallish windows (Building Regulations to blame) and dormers out of proportion.
The Awards were then presented as follows by the Society's President, Councillor David Hale, Mayor of Ipswich.
HIGH COMMENDATION The Reg Driver Visitor Centre, Christchurch Park. Client Ipswich Borough Council. Design by Randall, Shaw & Billingham. Contractors V A Marriott Ltd.
COMMENDATION St Peter's Church. Clients Ipswich Hospital Band, Ipswich Historic Churches Trust and Ipswich Borough Council. Design by Nicholas Jacob Architects. Contractors R G Carter (Ipswich) Ltd.
COMMENDATION The Wolsey Apartments, College Street. Clients Braceforce Ltd. Design by Wincer Kievenaar Architects. Contractors Braceforce Ltd.
COMMENDATION University Campus Suffolk, Waterfront. Clients University Campus Suffolk. Design by RMJM Architects. Contractors Willmott Dixon Construction Ltd.
Finally, Jack Chapman thanked Chris Wiltshire for his many intriguing presentations with a "refreshing brand of honesty and humour" and he also thanked Russell Nunn for organising the Awards scheme and the help provided by Su and Tony Marsden. Most people stayed on for a chat while enjoying the drinks and the excellent food provided.