The judges were impressed by the entries for the ‘plastic-opacity' themed contest, reports The Concrete Centre's Allan Haines

The Concrete Centre has announced the UK winners of its international concrete design competition for architecture and design students. A team from the University of Edinburgh's School of Architecture claimed first prize, and the quality of entries was so high that rather than award a third place, the judges awarded a joint second prize.

Under the theme of "plastic-opacity" entrants were asked to submit pieces that demonstrated a fusion of three key characteristics of concrete: versatility, plasticity and opacity. In particular, students had to examine the potential for spatial transparency within concrete and for the intricate engagement of shadow, light and tactility. Students were also invited to investigate the structural and environmental potential of concrete, as well as new techniques such as weaving, punching and folding it.

The University of Edinburgh team, which received a prize of €2000, was made up of four students: William Flint, David Ralph, Han Kyong Keun and Yong Cchun Kim. They used the elastic material properties of woven fabric with the fluid properties of concrete to produce a series of organic columnar elements that successfully expressed concrete's ability to be fluid and solid. The use of fabric instead of conventional formwork allowed the concrete to breathe during casting and for excess water to escape. The result was a concrete with a high quality finish.

Joint second place was awarded to Nick Turvey, Alistair Steele and Francesca Maffei of the Royal College of Art and to Vincent Young of the Barlett School of Architecture, University College London. The RCA entry was based on the often-overlooked paving slab. Their Spacetime slab revealed a pattern of pedestrian use through visual and tactile changes over time to promote engagement with the urban environment. This was achieved with a corrugated lower layer of hard concrete progressively exposed through the wearing down of an upper layer of softer concrete in a contrasting colour.

The Bartlett's Vincent Young examined the use of concrete's ability to act as an optical filter of light and movement. Young looked at how the fluidity of concrete allows it to be manipulated through a formwork of interlocking cones, which in turn cause the finished structural element to be perforated with a series of determined holes. These allow light and movement to filter through, thereby enhancing the structure's spatial relationship with its surroundings.

Two further entries were highly commended: the Reef Surface Mobile Islands, from William Hailiang Chen of the Architectural Association, and Design for a Concrete Skyscraper from Anna Schepper, also a student at the Architectural Association.

The jurors - Graham Morrison of architect Allies + Morrison, Jerry Van Eyke of urban designer West 8, Sean Griffths of architect FAT and Mark Swenerton, head of architecture at Oxford Brookes University - were particularly impressed by the range of entries and the imagination shown.

The UK national winners have gained a place at the one-week masterclass led by competition curator Hanif Kara, which will be held at the Bauhaus Dessau in August. There they will be joined by the national winners from Belgium, Netherlands, Germany, Sweden, Turkey and Italy.