Amanda Levete – Nominees arcVision Prize 2016

Amanda Levete (Great Britain)

Active for years within the Future Systems studio and independently since 2009, Amanda Levete inherits the culture of avant garde construction, with the belief that every architectural project should be represent a form of innovation.

Amanda Levete (Great Britain) Photo credit Peter GuenzelHer professional experience with AL_A studio led to major achievements and gained her international visibility. Perhaps the most noteworthy of these is the expansion of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, which included a new gallery for temporary exhibitions, a courtyard for public use, and a new museum entrance. The underground project embodies the the great attention Amanda Levete pays to the theme of facades, and in particular to the “fifth facade,” the roof.


“Pushing the limits of what is possible is what drives me as an architect. In my practice, AL_A, we balance the intuitive with the strategic, drawing on a foundation of rigorous research, innovation and painstaking attention to detail. In every project, however modest the scale, we try to advance the debate, be it analytical response, social purpose, manufacturing technique or material innovation.

In architecture, there is always tension between integrity, function and beauty. For me architecture is about creating buildings and spaces that are uplifting and beautiful, that lighten your mood, change the way people interact, change the way people think about themselves, and that help you feel your place in the world. Collaboration in design is very important to me: collaboration with my directors and team, with clients and consultants, and with communities. It is through collaboration that potential is amplified, problems are solved, and exceptional buildings can emerge.”



Location: London, UK Project
Type: Gallery for temporary exhibitions, public courtyard and a new museum entrance
Use of the Building: Museum
Construction Period: 2012 – 2016 (The construction is due to complete at the end of 2016 with the new entrance, courtyard and gallery opening to the public in 2017)

The Victoria and Albert Museum is one of the world’s greatest museums of art and design, providing unparalleled knowledge and understanding. AL_A’s project is the V&A’s largest expansion in over 100 years. We are re-imagining the dialogue between street and Museum by modifying the barrier of the Aston Webb Screen between the two, taking the V&A onto Exhibition Road and Exhibition Road into the V&A, and allowing people to drift in. Beyond is a courtyard that creates a major new public place – a destination for events, exhibitions and, above all, for appropriation by the public. At the heart of the brief is the new exhibition space to accommodate the V&A’s full program of world-class exhibitions. It will feel both of the moment of its creation, providing twenty-first century standards, and a natural part of the continuing development of the museum. The expression of the folded plate ceiling is derived entirely from its function of spanning 30m and soars over the visitor despite being underground. An oculus brings natural light down into the gallery and allows views up to the courtyard. The descent to the gallery below is celebrated as an important part of the visitor’s journey, woven into the fabric of the museum and framing otherwise-impossible views of the fine façades. Visitors are drawn by natural light, with descent and ascent designed with a specific focus on the theatre of the journey and the interplay between new and old. There is a paradox in-built to this project: a scheme that revolves around a vast new gallery space hidden below ground. The structural form and geometry of the gallery ceiling seeps through to the pattern of the courtyard above, giving a palpable expression of the exhibition space below. In this way we have made visible the invisible. Craftsmanship is an important thread that runs throughout all our work. Taking inspiration from the V&A’s ceramic collection and their powerful mission of marrying arts and crafts with design and industry, we are creating the world’s first porcelain courtyard, making craftsmanship relevant in a digital world. This major piece of research has taken 2½ years and collaboration with experts from across Europe. Achieving exceptional sustainability criteria for an energy-hungry climate controlled environment in a historic building was far from straightforward — but the new galleries will be one of the most sustainable and have one of the lowest carbon footprints of any international gallery. We achieved this by allowing consideration of these issues to drive the design from the outset, working closely and rigorously with both engineers Arup and the V&A throughout.

PhotoCredits – Victoria & Albert Museum: © AL_A, main construction view Copyright Stephen Citrone


Location: Lisbon, Portugal
Project Type: A new museum including exhibition spaces, auditorium, café and new public spaces
Use of the Building: Museum
Construction Period: 2013 – 2016 • Opens October 2016

The Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology (MAAT) is a new museum located on the Belém waterfront in Lisbon, renewing access to the Tagus River from the city and consolidating the wider publicly-funded urban regeneration of the quarter. Incorporating over 7,000m² of new public space, the Museum will explore the convergence of architecture, technology and contemporary art as a field of cultural practice. It will accommodate a trans-disciplinary program of exhibitions, public events and community engagement. A new discursive space for the city, it will lead the conversation about the evolution of Lisbon and Portugal. From the macro to the micro, material expressiveness and exquisite detailing combine to realize the global conceptual ideas of the MAAT. The topographic form blends structure into landscape in a move that creates visual and physical permeability between inside and outside. A space to be appropriated by the public, it allows people to walk over and under as well as through the building and access the city via a new footbridge over the railway tracks. The roof becomes an outdoor room, a physical and conceptual connection to the city’s heart, where you can turn away from the river and enjoy the vista of the cityscape, and at night, watch a film with Lisbon as your backdrop. The Museum sits modestly below the skyline in contrast to the prominence of the Museu da Electricidade next door: our design has presence, but it is not bombastic As a result, the body of the Museum sits below the waterline, which demanded a very considered and sophisticated approach to risk and waterproofing to meet the stringent demands of the client and regulatory bodies. At high tide, a series of steps leading down to the water’s edge are submerged, creating a permeable threshold that changes with the tide. The waterfront context is so essential to the project that we have found a way to reflect this – literally – onto the floor of the gallery. An overhanging roof that creates welcome shade is used to bounce sunlight off the water and into the building, tracing the shifting patterns. The exhibition spaces are a seamless continuation of the circulation that draws people in from the riverfront and down into the Museum. Each gallery space is defined by its lighting condition: from an enclosed oval gallery, to a diffusely daylit space, to a gallery animated by the reflections of water. These provide capacity for a wide-range of exhibits from multimedia displays to art installations. Building on Portugal’s rich tradition of ceramics, 3D tiles articulate the façade and produce a complex surface that gives readings of water, light and shadow, capturing and magnifying the tonal light qualities of this site.

PhotoCredits – MAAT: © AL_A


Location: London, UK
Project Type: Addition of three floors above an existing two-storey brick retail building along with a new façade
Use of the Building: Offices
Construction Period: 2007 – 2009
Selected awards: NAS Design Partnership Award; 2010 • European Aluminium Award, Special Jury Prize for Innovation & Design, 2009 • CAB Aluminium in Renovation Award Overall Winner; 2009 • CAB Aluminium in Renovation Award Special Prize; 2009

Many narrow streets and alleyways off Oxford Street are currently underdeveloped. These under-regarded areas are ideal not only for improvement, but also for relatively unconventional design opportunities. We took an almost painfully pragmatic brief of adding three floors and a new façade to an existing, unprepossessing two-storey brick building, and, seeing its potential, fashioned it into an award-winning building. Our design for Hills Place acknowledged this by providing an architectural intervention that subtly draws attention to the building through the intrigue of the façade. Large glazed areas orientated towards the sky are slashed into the façade, maximizing the natural light available in this narrow street. The undulating double-curved skin creates a visually complex and faceted surface that exploits the play of light by fracturing reflections of passing traffic, animating the façade and making it highly visible from Oxford Street. We fought a hard-won battle to convince the local planning authority to grant us an oversailing license to project the building above the pavement level. This was a practical response to the desire to let in more daylight through upturned windows and to create more floor space, and it created real impact on the streetscape. We developed relationships with manufacturers to push boundaries and the generation of bespoke designs was delivered both on time and within budget. The façade design was as much the result of the site constraint that did not allow for a crane to be used for its installation. This form is achieved using a system of aluminium profiles used in the production of high quality, ship hulls that were connected together on-site. We persuaded the manufacturers to warranty the system even though we bent the aluminium profiles in a different direction. Sustainability is not always about photovoltaics and rainwater recycling. Rather, consideration of the entire lifespan of the building reveals that the lowest carbon footprint can often be found through the re-use of existing foundations, shell and core of a structure, as demonstrated in Hills Place. This was coupled with reduced reliance on artificial lighting and the employment of chilled beams for heating and cooling. It shows that even a relatively small building can make a difference.

PhotoCredits –  Hills Place: copyright AL_A, copyright Edmund Sumner


Location: London, UK Project
Type: An academy school for 1,500 students and restorative work to a Grade II listed building
Use of the Building: Education
Construction Period: 2007 – 2010

The ‘all-through’ Globe Academy for 1,500 pupils comprises ‘schools within schools’, with each having a separate identity while at the same time working within the concept of a campus to nurture and educate from infant to teenager. Exceptionally aspirational both for education and for environment, the Academy’s purpose is to develop high motivation and high achievement for all its students, irrespective of their start in life. In particular, its aim is to ensure that every student makes enough progress by age 18 to have real options. The Globe Academy has a performing arts specialism alongside a mission to develop excellence in the core skills of numeracy and English. The Globe Academy, sited within a socially deprived area is the realization of the potential to not only create new beginnings for pupils, but to also act as a motivator for learning and a catalyst for welcoming and engaging with the wider community of Southwark in south London. We believe the qualities of the environment in which you learn, and in particular light, space, color and sound, make a real difference to how quickly you learn and how much you enjoy learning. We aspire to making the learning spaces beautiful and inspirational and to create a positive experience for all those involved in the learning process. The Academy is constituted by a new kindergarten, a refurbished Victorian primary school building, and listed Modernist and new buildings comprising the secondary school on a single site. These are all tied together by a masterplan and a piece of public realm that transformed isolated buildings into a true campus. Sustainability was vital in the design of the Globe Academy: not only in the reduction of its embodied energy and carbon footprint, but also in the design of an environment that encourages learning. Thus, the configuration of classrooms was orchestrated to maximize daylight into each and every room, alongside narrow floorplates to allow cross ventilation to reduce reliance on artificial cooling. It showed that a comprehensive and holistic approach to learning and sustainability in symbiosis is both desirable and achievable.

PhotoCredits – La Nuova Globe Academy: © Gideon Fuehrer e © AL_A


Bridgend, Wales (UK), 17 November 1955 Amanda Levete is a RIBA Stirling Prize winning architect and founder and principal of AL_A, an international award-winning design and architecture studio. Since its formation in 2009, AL_A has refined an intuitive and strategic approach to design that has radicalized clients and briefs, and led to a diverse range of concepts for cultural, retail and commercial schemes around the world. Recent commissions include the highly anticipated expansion of the Victoria & Albert Museum in London; a 1.5 million sq ft luxury shopping mall and hotel in Bangkok on the former grounds of the British Embassy; a new center for the cancer care charity Maggie’s in Southampton; a 13-hectare media campus for Sky, the Museum of Art, Architecture & Technology (MAAT) in Lisbon commissioned by Energias De Portugal (EDP), one of the world’s foremost energy companies; MPavilion 2015 in Melbourne; the remodelling of Galeries Lafayette Haussmann in Paris; and Courtyard, a series of community mixed-use developments on 39 sites across Moscow. Levete is a trustee of leading social innovation center The Young Foundation and served as a trustee of influential arts organization Artangel for over a decade. She is a regular radio and TV broadcaster, writes for a number of publications including the New Statesman and Prospect and lectures throughout the world. Levete trained at the Architectural Association and worked for Richard Rogers before joining Future Systems as a partner in 1989, where she realized ground-breaking buildings including the Media Centre at Lord’s Cricket Ground and Selfridges department store in Birmingham.

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