Architect in training Eric de Thoisy, fresh graduate from the Paris-La Villette Architecture School has been announced as the winner of the first ever World Architecture News Student Competition for his proposal to our Better Cities, Better Lives contest. We asked students across the globe to take a city of their choice and suggest a solution to an urban challenge that city is facing.
The submissions were judged by WAN’s Editor in Chief Michael Hammond, WAN’s Business Information Manager Caroline Stephens and CEO of World Cities Network Brian Kilkelly. This jury selected a shortlist of six, and from that chose Eric de Thoisy as the winner. The shortlist was comprised of: Eric de Thoisy, Paris-La Villette Architecture School; Kenneth Mora, Universidad Veritas in San Jose; Zeina Tantawy, American University in Cairo; Connor Page, Nottingham Trent University; Nahid Shabnam Haimonty, Gerald D Hines College of Architecture; and Tomy Lau Wing Yip, University of Hong Kong.
Speaking on the winning presentation, Brian Kilkelly detailed: "We are delighted with the strong response from students across the world to this competition. Eric's beautiful illustration of 'collective ascent' perfectly answers the challenge we face in making cities more resilient, sustainable, and vibrant. As well as congratulating Eric, I would like to thank all the students for their thoughtful and inspiring contributions."
Eric commented: "I'm extremely proud for hearing cheerful comments about my work, and receiving this reward. Impressed also, to observe that so-called radical projects can get a genuine welcome from an intelligent jury - sadly not always the case in architecture schools. And somehow excited to understand that the dramatic issues of our future can also become opportunities for thinking of ambitious urban answers."
Eric’s winning submission is as follows:
People are city changers; architects make it possible. By looking up to the sky and learning lessons from the nature. The ground of our cites is saturated, divided - public space is rare and free wandering has become harder and harder. New trajectories must be allowed, new spaces of freedom must be created.
Taking root in the unusable pieces of land of our cites to build collective ascensionnal paths has to be considered as one contemporary solution. This is an old idea though; what could it be like today, in the city of Paris?
The 35km circular highway plays dramatic parts in the shape of the city and the life of the people: a visual barrier, a social frontier, and above all a huge amount of unusable and inaccessible pieces of land, in a city where the ground is as expensive as gold. What if this ring is thought today as the foundation of an infinite amount of new spaces, accessible for all?
The future of the urban population faces an increasing amount of challenges; the need for a better and sustainable food and water production and distribution system; the lack of spaces to give a roof to each of us; an increasing pollution; the need for better energy production and regulation. We need to think today about new solutions making cities capable of addressing these multiple challenges. Answers are local - local production of food and energy, local treatment of waste and pollution, and local shelters for people of course... but inspiration is global, and generic solutions must be found.
The key may be the organization and optimization of exchanges between the ground and the sky; many solutions can be found by looking up the sky: ecological decontamination of our air and our water; storage of wasted electricity; production of solar and wind energy; agriculture for all. Those are some of the vital functions of this project. Many others are to be found.
Then, how to go up? How to reach the sky? By looking around. Valuable lessons can be learned by observing how nature made it. In this project, natural processes have been an inspiration to think of how a vertical agriculture building could work today; and by combining it with the latest technology, smart solutions can be found.
Contemporary research gives us incredibly optimistic answers to address the challenge of feeding our cities; hydroponics and aeroponics agriculture systems are huge opportunities for architects to think of creative and elegant solutions.
Sometimes, radical solutions too. Being a city changer is a big responsibility; thinking of fictional futures is our duty - otherwise the future of our cities will be in the wrong hands. Better cities are cities where people get their freedom, their power, and their lives back.