The overall winner, MAXXI, the modern art museum in Rome designed by Zaha Hadid and 12 years in the making. It was a vaguely predictable win, and felt disappointing for that, but perhaps it shouldn't. The building is a triumph over considerable adversity, and a work of art in its own right.
The decision is of course that of the jury, and there were those who disagreed. Perhaps an overall winner is unnecessary, and the true achievement comes of being among the final fourteen category winners, most of which managed to surprise as well as display, with an architectural excellence to be admired.
But the real joy of awards like these is the stumbling over the unheard-of gems. There are around 600 entries, from which 200 are shortlisted and get to present during the festival. All are on display, and this is what one may really miss by not attending.
Most can't attend, of course, mainly because the event is an expensive experience. Your WAN correspondent spent his time trying to amass some of these undiscovered treasures by collecting impressions of the festival from those he met.
Roger Zogolovitch of Solidspace, judged the Learning category, in which the WOHA designed Singapore School of the Arts won. This was an excellent building, really well thought out, and displaying the architect as ‘totally in control, just as we'd always like to think we are’. But, like me, he enjoys the ‘unseen gems’ - small schemes where the architects has done something remarkable or beautiful, sometimes in spite of the situation.
Zogolovitch picked two - the Classroom Prototype on a remote Philippine island designed by Elena Jamil Architect from Malaysia, and the Shining Star Bintero Kindergarten in Indonesia, designed by djuhara + djuhara. Jamil has taken the typical classroom, and modified the typology, producing much better external spaces - a veranda well used by the children for both educational and recreational purposes - and a new privacy for the teaching areas. She has kept enough of the old and the local, in materials and construction technique which allows both easy repetition - crucial for a prototype - and local acceptance.
Djuhara have also changed a typology - desperate to provide some protected outdoor space within a building type always enclosed in Indonesia, they added a storey to a building of traditional floor plate and created a delightful central courtyard without losing the floor space required. Their attention to detail, and use of local
materials, created something of real beauty, a screen protecting the courtyard composed of unremarkable local airbricks, which simultaneously produced enclosure, protection, an attractive exterior and ventilation.
The delightful story of ‘A forest for a moondazzler’ enchanted many delegates. It's a house built by London-based Benjamin Garcia Saxe for his mother in Costa Rica, providing her with new security and comfort, and a window positioned so she could gaze upon the moon she loved while drifting off to sleep. It was the winner in its category. The building itself was a triumph, built for little money with local materials, but using proportion and light to create a perfect home for the client.
Jeff Morehen, of Francis-Jones Morehen Thorp, liked the Diana Center by Weiss/Manfredi, which he described as finely detailed. Indeed it is, and as he adds, it's well planned, and attempts to create some new sightlines across the rather closed campus of Columbia University.
Alford Hall Monaghan Morris' scheme at Barking Central, which was commended in its category, attracted the admiration of Phil Hudson of Price & Myers. It's conversion of a dark and dangerous corner of London's East End into an open and popular place to live is a triumph he thinks. John Boxall of Jackson Coles agrees, praising the work of landscape architect MUF, who created an ‘internal arboretum’ which is now a well-used public space.
Ken Jones, of BuroHappold had enjoyed the Zaha Hadid presentation of MAXXI: “When you hear the story from the architect, it helps you understand the building so much better”.
Marcela Grassi, an architectural photographer, liked the La Llotja Theatre and Congress Centre by Mecanoo Architekten - a colourful concrete box in Ilieada near Barcelona. The life and variety presumably appealed to the Argentine-born Italian who lives in Catalunya and works all round the world.
Eugene Dreyer, from Farrells, liked District Z8, from Archi5, a project to turn an old airport in to a new city quarter. "It's a bit mad, but it's great to see work like this, and to know it still gets done", he said. Indeed, a little madness is a good thing - witness the Woods of Net by Tezuka Architects, which brings a ‘pick-up-sticks’ motif to a cultural building which, through its nuttiness, engages and enchants.
Nik Karalis, Director at Woods Bagot, was there both to judge a category, and to present one of his schemes - the Hilton South Wharf conference centre in Melbourne. This is not a Hilton as you'd know it, Karalis' challenge to the behemoth chain to produce a different environment comes off very successfully, and the integration of hotel and conference centre is a delight to anyone with experience of how it can be done badly.
Karalis was on the jury that awarded The Arc, by Suisman Urban Design, the win in the Future Projects Masterplanning category. It
also won the overall awards for Future Projects. A Jewish architect replanning the Palestinian Territories could be a cause for conflict, but its rigorous analysis and planning - the proper application of architectural skills - for a trebling of the Palestinian population ‘provide tangible incentives for political resolution by demonstrating the benefits of achieving peace’. This laudable goal should not be regarded as beyond architecture, thinks Karalis.
Eric Moller Arckiteker's Halden Prison was a favourite for this correspondent, showing how good design can enhance the human condition, and indeed help rebuild humanity in those who have lost it. Such are the reasons why architects become architects. Some perhaps lose sight of them along the way, but projects like Halden can serve, perhaps, to remind.
For the record, the category winners were:
Culture - MAXXI, Zaha Hadid, Italy
House - A Forest for a Moondazzler, Benjamin Garcia Saxe, Costa Rica
Housing - Pinnacle @ Duxton, ARC Studio Architecture + Urbanism, Singapore
Learning - School of the Arts, Woha, Singapore
Office - Vali-Asr Commercial Office Building, KELVAN, Iran
Holiday - Alila Villas Uluwatu, WOHA, Indonesia
Shopping - Yamaha Ginza, Nikken Sekkei, Japan
Sport - Soccer City National Stadium, Boogertman + Partners, South Africa
Display - Spanish Pavilion for Shanghai Expo, Miralles Tagliabue Embt
Health - Brain & Mind Research Institute, BVN Architecture, Australia
Residential Future Project - No winner
Civic & Community - City of Justice, Spain, David Chipperfield Architects
Landscape - Shanghai Houtan Park, China, Turenscape
Production, Energy and Recycling - Yevlakh Seed Industry Campus, Azerbaijan, TOCA
Transport - The Helix Bridge, Singapore, Cox Rayner Architects
New & Old - DDB Office, Turkey, Erginoglu & Calislar Mimarlik Insaat Ticaret ve Turizm Limited Sirketi
Future Project Category winners
Future Projects, Cultural - Concert Hall Jordanek in Torun, Poland, Menis Arquitectos
Future Projects, Masterplanning - The Arc, Palestinian Occupied Territory, Suisman Urban Design
Future Projects, Commercial - OFFICES' 63, India, Sanjay Puri Architects
Future Projects, Education - Sabah Al-Salem University, Kuwait, Perkins + Will
Future Projects, Infrastructure - West Kowloon Terminus, Hong Kong, Aedas
Future Projects, Health - Kuwait Children's Hospital, Kuwait, AGi Architects SL
Future Projects, competition entries - Dance and Music Centre, Netherlands, Aedas
Future Projects, experimental - no winner
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