21 for 21 winners announced

Monday 23 Apr 2012

Materiality and sensitivity to context are winning factors for WAN 21 for 21 Award

The panel are pleased to announce the eight winners of the second stage of WAN’s 21 for 21 Award. All of these practices were selected by our expert panel as they were deemed to have the potential to be the leading lights of architecture in the 21st century. Each winning practice sent in an outstanding submission which demonstrated a successful ability to convey their projects and architectural direction to the panel.

The shortlist was examined multiple times to award appropriate commendation to practices however when it came to deciding the winners, a heated debate took place. Five winning practices were a credited last year and with this year’s eight, WAN is over halfway through their search to finding their winning twenty one firms. This broad array of entries just goes to show what a bright future the architectural industry will have to offer and what beauty will manifest from these practices over the 21st century.

The winning eight submissions demonstrated clarity, extraordinary vision and strength in the context of their proposals. Some of their existing structures serve as masterpieces of thoughtful design and engineering. Overall these winners certainly have the ambition, drive and ability to impact the nature of architecture over the course of the 21st century.

Vo Trong Nghia Co. Ltd from Vietnam demonstrated their elegance and intelligent uses of natural material with multiple bamboo constructions that simply wowed the entire judging panel. They portrayed an amazing array of really creative products made from local materials and this is something that all the judges gave praise for. Zaha Hadid Architects’ Patrik Schumacher highlights that Vo Trong Nghia Co.LTD are ‘finding forms true to material which has enabled them to create light forms with influences of scientific vernacular’, a premise appraised by the jury and one which they feel other architectural practices can learn from.

Peter Murray described the Swiss practice HHF Architects as being able to ‘produce an elegant mixture of things. They can obviously try their hand at a variety of different approaches’. HHF’s range of work shows potential for the future and in particular their work on Espinazo del Diablo, Jalisco, Mexico is an example of their achievement.

Rintala Eggertsson Architects from Oslo caught the eye of every jury member. Andrew Best from Buro Happold commented on the overall condition of the presentation and their ‘well crafted projects’. With a variety of small-scale projects and ambitious schemes leaping off their pages the judges were certainly entertained by the practice. Patrik Schumacher expressed how Rintala Eggertsson Architects’ work ‘comes across as poetic messages in the lived and designed environment’.

Beijing-based MAD Architects showed a multitude of projects that were picked up by both Patrik Schumacher and Jack Carter, who agreed that this firm ‘is going places’ and the panel look forward to seeing their work develop in the future. They are taking the style of Parametricism to a new level and because of this the young firm looks very mature.

Helen & Hard, Stavanger, Norway, demonstrated their innovative timber construction and the panel unanimously decided that the firm could turn their hand to a variety of different sized projects. The practice was a clear winner.

Cloud 9 from Barcelona amazed the judges with a number of interesting and complex structures; this practice achieved unanimous approval from all members of the panel and was awarded a winning place because of this. It was certainly the easiest winner as the firm’s approach and design skill sparked Patrik Schumacher into expressing his delight, classing them as a ‘very strong’ architectural practice and an all round winner.

CREUSeCARRASCO arquitectos portrayed architecture that was true to Spain, but at the same time appeared able to reference a wider audience. Jack Carter expressed his approval of the Spanish firm whilst saying that the practice was ‘a definite winner’.

Kéré Architecture brought a unique story to the table; Francis Kéré has developed a way of working that is ‘elegant in its own way’. Andrew Best states that: “In terms of architecture, he is making an impact on people that architecture usually forgets.” Francis and his practice are credited for their efforts and successful acts of design that are affecting the lives of people for the better and the panel wishes them the very best for the future.

In conclusion, there were two strong themes. On one hand there was the materiality of the projects as Jack Carter explained: “We have clearly chosen people that have a strong understanding of materiality within there projects, schemes which are true to their materials.” On the other hand was the architects’ sensitive handling of context. Nearly all of the projects are very routed in their site and a lot of the offices had very different and diverse sites which led to more interesting and captivating architectural proposals. Overall the panel were pleased with their decision and the panel as a whole expressed their desire to come back in ten years time to see if they were correct.

Peter Murray gives the following advice to next years contenders: “If practices are to have an impact on the future of architecture they need to be able to turn their hand to a variety of different approaches and that suggests the real architectural skill.” Well done to all our winning practices and good luck to next year’s applicants.

The 2012 WAN 21 for 21 Award Winners are:

Vo Trong Nghia Co. Ltd, Hochiminh city, Vietnam
HHF architects, Basel, Switzerland
Rintala Eggertsson Architects, Oslo, Norway
MAD Architects, Beijing, China
Helen & Hard, Stavanger, Norway
Cloud 9, Barcelona, Spain
CREUSeCARRASCO arquitectos, Malpica, Spain
Kéré Architecture, Berlin, Germany

Click here to view all of the 21 for 21 winners so far.

Michael Cheetham
Architecture Student at University of Brighton

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