Since the inauguration of WAN's Sector Awards earlier this year, an air of excitement has filled our office every two months as we approach the announcement of the winning projects. This week, we've all been high as kites waiting for our fabulous juries to reach their decisions on the Urban Design Awards which for the first time in the WAN programme, has seen both built and unbuilt projects reviewed. Today we announce the twelve projects, 6 built, 6 unbuilt, which still stand a chance of becoming the WAN Urban Design of the Year, with the winners announced next Tuesday. The judging sessions, as always, proved a highlight in our calendar with judges in both camps proclaiming 'let's do that again!' and Alastair Lansley going so far as to say, "I think I've probably had one of the most enjoyable mornings I've had in a long time!"
But we lead with one architect who may just be able to top our judges' week. As she was awarded the Praemium Imperiale for Architecture, Zaha Hadid has more reason to smile than most. She has topped the tables on the WAN search engine as the most searched for architect for the past two
years, so it's clear that Zaha is both an inspiration and a prolonged figure of interest throughout the world, this latest achievement puts her in a class of the exceptional few who have received almost every prestigious architecture award thinkable and our congratulations go out to her - just a WAN Award to go!
An exquisite range of projects has flooded in from all corners of the globe this week, spreading new belief that the worst of the financial tidal wave is over. Despite this, Dubai's signature project, The World islands, is rumoured to be suffering the embarrassment of being swept away as work has halted, one of the investors has committed suicide, and expensive security is proving crippling. We'll have more on this next week as we investigate the extent of the damage.
Good news in Russia though as one of the country's landmark projects, Okhta Centre has finally been given the go-ahead, although those with a sympathy for St Petersburg's traditional architecture may not be so happy. The Centre will function as energy giant Gazprom's new oil unit HQ and is set to rise 400 metres from the ground becoming the tallest structure in Europe. RMJM's design may be beautiful in form, but should a commercial project hold such dominance in the skyline and will its size prove too indulgent for the historical city? - UNESCO think the design goes too far and that's why they are threatening to remove World Heritage status for St Petersburg if the plans go ahead.
While size may prove to be a hindrance for some, in Larvik, Norway it has proved to be a defining factor of schmidt hammer lassen architects' spectacular school project, Thor Heyerdahl School of Advanced and Further Education. Surely a contender for next year's WAN Education Awards, the school provides a visual feast for the students who are encouraged through
the design of the building to cross-pollinate knowledge with experience in the half-technical, half-academic college.
Our comment this week takes cross-pollination back to its roots, discussing the concept of biomimicry. Biomimicry, as coined in 1997, is the study, adaptation and implementation of natural processes into design in order to resolve human issues. Dayna Baumeister from the Biomimicry Guild explains the process and discusses exciting advancements that could develop a whole new sustainable standard in architecture.
It's not just scientists and architects who have a monopoly over sustainability, Hollywood heart-throbs know a thing or too as well, apparently. Brad Pitt and his 'Making it Right' team were honoured on Friday by USGBC's President Rick Fedrizzi and former US President Bill Clinton for devising the 'largest and greenest community of single-family homes in the world'. Pitt, who has a keen interest in architecture, founded Making it Right following the New Orleans disaster of 2005, to help re-house those whose lives were devastated when the levee system failed, flooding the city. The acknowledgement acts as a poignant nod to the collective responsibility of everybody to commit to sustainability and help fend off similar disasters in the future, as far as possible.
Editorial , London
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