Opening its doors to over 1,500 visitors is the biggest gathering of the global architectural community - the World Architecture Festival, just a few minutes outside Barcelona city centre at the Centre Convencions International Barcelona (CCIB), happened earlier in the week, from 4th to 6th November 2009. The festival, now in its second year, celebrates the work, concerns and aspirations of international architects. The curators have masterminded the exhibition and seminar programme to respond to the common festival umbrella theme - Less Does More, which in reflection of the current global economic climate will examine the challenges facing architects to produce more value for less cost.
Running alongside the main seminars is the world's largest architectural awards programme - the World Architecture Festival Awards. Unlike other award schemes the WAF Awards give access to something more often reserved for a select few - to see shortlisted architects present their schemes live to international judging panels, including the likes of Sir Peter Cook, Kengo Kuma, Renato Benedetti and Will Alsop and delegates, as they compete for the ultimate accolade of World Building of the Year 2009. Rafael Vinoly is chair of the super-jury which will choose the winner from 15 finalists announced at a glittering awards ceremony at the end of the festival on Friday 6th November.
We are posting thte list of winners announced during the festival, courtesy of the organizers. The list being quite long, we split it into two articles. The second part to be published tomorrow.
The three jurors in this category believe they were presented with a good many deserving projects but that the gene pool of buildings and public spaces that we had to evaluate was uneven in quality.
We understand that there are different architectural definitions of ‘public’ but there were several projects that we did not think belonged in the category ‘Civic and Community because they were either built for private ownership or not open to all citizens of the polis.
We also had a difficult time deciding on a winner in this category as the architectural scale of the projects varied enormously from the very modest to the quite grand. In the end we passed over several deserving projects because we were judging architectural quality and the smaller projects could not stand up to the pyrotechnics of those with enormous budgets, ambitious clients and large design teams. How for example do you compare a community facility built for 25,000 pounds in west Africa to a British embassy in Algeria?
We were also struck by the how important issues of landscape were to many of the designs and while this may have more to do with the category Civic and Community architects today’s seem critically concerned with embracing and working with their surrounding context. Finally in our deliberations we were confused about how to assess both the process of design and the importance of sustainability to the architecture of built projects. How do you gauge, for example, architecture that is created pro bono (without fees for the designers ) or the intent of a project to provide the barest of material conditions for poor, underserved populations with a grand residence with a swimming pool, tennis courts and extravagant gardens?
In the end however we all agreed on our one prizewinner and two commendations. It was an exciting process and we wish to thank emap for giving us the opportunity to serve on this jury.
Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre
by Peter Rich Architects, Johannesburg, South Africa
The winner of the Culture category is the Mapungubwe Interpretation Centre by Peter Rich Architects.
Designed to house artefacts from the region´s prehistory, the building connects intimately with an extraordinary veldt site in northern South Africa near the border with Zimbabwe.
The jury admired the way in which the architecture responded to vernacular African types, synthesising forms, materials and light in a nuanced but unsentimental way to make what is still an indisputably contemporary building of immense resonance and richness. It also underpinned by a strong social programme, using the skills and labour of local people and involving them in the design and construction process.
Engaging with tradition and modernity, place and people, it offers a different view of architecture as a subversive and poetic force for transformation.
This restaurant in a Swedish ski resort is an appropriate gesture to respond to the environmental aspects and the natural forces of the landscape.
The simple birch wood tree trunks piled up in a conical form around a steel and wooden inner structure form an outer skin that protects the building from the harsh climatic conditions of winters.
The uncompromising commitment to modern Swedish design is a loyal gesture to the country´s contribution to modernism.
It also indicates architects´ dedication to modernity. At the same time the form, which is based on the traditional use of timber tree trunks, links this project to the cultural and architectural history of Sweden.