ECOLA Conference 2015

About the potential of plaster

At the eighth European Conference of Leading Architects (ECOLA), 31 participants from 13 European countries discussed current applications and future design possibilities of plaster. The highlight of the conference was the presentation of the ECOLA Awards for the most remarkable new buildings or refurbishment projects in Europe implemented in recent years, “which are as a whole or in parts characterised by the use of plaster on the façade or in the interiors”. Sto SE & Co. KGaA and Bundesverband Ausbau und Fassade im Zentralverband des Deutschen Baugewerbes initiated this Europe-wide competition for the eighth time. The five award-winners in 2015 as well as the members of the nomination and assessment juries had been invited to this conference.

On 24 September 2015, ECOLA started with a visit to the university city of Oxford, where Wilkinson Eyre Architects guided the participants through the “Maggie’s Centre”, a day-care facility for people suffering from cancer and their relatives. Subsequently, the group visited other recently completed buildings like the St. Anthony’s College by Zaha Hadid. The next conference day, the participants listened to the lecture “Cheerful Architecture – the real sustainer” by Sir Peter Cook as well as the keynote speech by Professor Brian Cody, which followed up the principle of “There can be no good architecture without a good energy concept”.

This was followed by the presentation of the projects winning the ECOLA Award. The 1st prize in the Refurbishment/Renovation/Conversion category went to the office wespi de meuron romeo architekten from Scaiano, Switzerland, for the conversion of a stone house in the centre of their home village. In the New Building category, the architects from spacialAR-TE, Porto rejoiced at the 1st price, which they received for the High-Performance Rowing Centre in Pocinho, Portugal. Special mentions were awarded to Carlos Arroyo Architects (Madrid) for the “OostCampus” in Oostkamp, Belgium, Atelier Zafari (Berlin) for the “Housing at the old city wall“ project in Berlin, and Eric Lapierre Architecture from Paris for their “86 Apartments” project in Lyon.

In the afternoon, all participants designed their visions with plaster. In a breath-taking English garden landscape in Medmenham, Buckinghamshire, each architect drafted a “Statement in Plaster”. At teatime, Professor Enrique Sobejano (Nieto Sobejano Arquitectos, Madrid) gave an impressive lecture on the significance of plaster for his buildings. During the festive award ceremony in the former Bisham Abbey, Jochen Stotmeister, chairman of the supervisory board of STO Management SE, and Jürgen G. Hilger, President of the European Union of Plasterers (UEEP), presented the ECOLA Awards 2015. On the last day of the conference, Sir Peter Cook provided a very personal guided tour of London by boat and thus gave the architects an understanding of the city from the River Thames. The conference ended with a visit to the ‘Sto-Werkstatt’, a showroom in London’s Clerkenwell District, which currently features an exhibition by J. Mayer H. on the ECOLAs of recent years.