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UEL architecture graduate wins prestigious award

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Alumna and lecturer Charlotte Harris has won a prestigious award from the Royal Institute of British Architects

Charlotte Harris, a University of East London (UEL) graduate who is now a lecturer in the University’s School of Architecture, Computing and Engineering (ACE), has won a prestigious architecture award from the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA).  

HASA Architects, of which Ms Harris is a founding director, have won a London Regional Award for their Highgate Bowl project, which involves the transformation of a derelict horticultural glasshouse in Highgate Hill, north London. The project has brought this forgotten piece of the city back into public use as a community garden and versatile event space.

“We were delighted just to be shortlisted for the RIBA London Regionals but then to win an award this year is amazing,” Ms Harris said. “We haven’t entered the RIBA awards before, but given the quite unusual nature of this project, we thought we would give it a go.”

The clients for the project, Omved International, who are involved with a number of charitable organisations, have renamed the site Omved Gardens and the building is now used for a variety of purposes, such as art exhibitions, workshops and seminars, as well as events for local schools.

HASA Architects made small-scale, low-cost, yet highly effective interventions to remodel and repurpose the 300-square-metre building.

The design has been inspired by the frame and construction of the original building. It explores the possibilities of this forgotten piece of the city by bringing it back into public use through a series of small-scale interventions in the form of new external and internal pathways, rooms and furniture pieces. These guide visitors through the large open bays of the glasshouse, while framing views of the surrounding landscape and Bowl beyond.

The detailed design was developed using physical models and 1:1 mock-ups of the structural elements and the works were carried out on site within a six-week period, phased into three separate packages: restoration to the glasshouse; application of protective film to the glass; and installation of the joinery elements. The plywood components were manufactured off-site using CNC cutting services and assembled within a 10-day period.

Ms Harris said, “It was challenging to work with the glasshouse’s fragile skin, which we restored to reveal the qualities of the horticultural glass, but the biggest challenge of all was the fast-paced programme. 
It took eight weeks for us to complete the first phase and now it’s an ongoing project. We are continuing to work with the clients, making additions and alterations to the glasshouse and we also have some more exciting plans for the overall site.”
 
Ms Harris co-founded HASA Architects in Bloomsbury in 2015. She studied architecture as an undergraduate at Canterbury School of Creative Arts, before moving to London and the University of East London where she graduated with a RIBA part two qualification in 2006 and a master’s in urban design in 2007.
 
Alongside her work with HASA Architects, Ms Harris has taught part-time at UEL for three years. She also teaches at the Sir John Cass School of Art, Architecture and Design at London Metropolitan University.
 
Head of UEL’s School of Architecture, Computing and Engineering (ACE), David Tann, said, “This is a significant award for a young architect, and I would like to congratulate Charlotte on this success. We are delighted that Charlotte, who is both a former student and now one of our excellent lecturers, has received the recognition she deserves for such a unique architectural project.”