[PODČETRTEK SPORTS HALL by enota | Photograph: Miran Kambič]
Last month the European Centre for Architecture Art Design and Urban Studies and The Chicago Athenaeum: Museum of Architecture and Design, co-presented by Metropolitan Arts Press Ltd., announced ninety (90) new distinguished building projects, urban plans, and landscape architecture selected in the International Architecture Awards program for 2011. Ten of the projects are featured here, all completed buildings or landscapes, yet they are definitely international in scope, hitting five continents in countries from Australia to Brazil, the United States to Thailand, France to Japan.
With nearly 100 winners, the results are quite diverse, so it's difficult to find threads running through the designs, minus a predilection on the part of the jury (made up of Polish architects who met in Warsaw in May) for strong modern/contemporary forms; of course the same could be said for most awards competitions. The ten that I selected struck me for various reasons, not all rational or considered, but some overlaps in formal and other concerns can be gleaned. For example, the project at top, a Sports Hall in Podčetrtek, Slovenia by enota, is a building with a strong nighttime character. Subtle perforations of the metallic skin during the day become Robert Ventruri-esque supergraphics at night as the surface behind the facade glows. A similar consideration of lighting at night can be found in the Grotto Apartment Building by Ryuichi Ashizawa Architects & Associates and the Open Architecture Project by Yoshiaki Oyabu Architects, both in Japan.
"The selected projects challenge new approaches to design that are beyond the envelope of the everyday, while providing cities with key civic buildings that celebrate and harmonize architecture as a high art while finding answers to the complicated problems of environment, social context, improving quality of life, and sustainability." -Christian K. Narkiewicz-Laine, Museum President, The Chicago AthaneumOne interesting consideration found in a few projects is the creation of spaces that bridge the urban with the interior scale of the building; the former is defined by streets and squares, while the latter is usually one story defined by walls, floors, and ceilings. These "urban rooms," if you will, can be found in the top-right photo, the La Cité des Affaires Office Building in Saint Etienne, France by Manuelle Gautrand Architecture. A large office block -- literally a block -- is carved in various places to bring light and circulation to the glass and metal building. Pedestrian access is highlighted in bright yellow. Impressive in-between spaces can also be found in the Administration Center of Biological Office Park Suzhou in China by WSP Architects. The image at left also starts to illustrate the number of projects that attempt to blur the distinction between building and landscape, by either burying the former within the latter, or by covering in buildings in as much vegetation as possible, as with Camelview Village in Scottsdale, Arizona by David Hovey (Optima).
A last consideration is what I'd call untraditional architecture, meaning buildings and landscapes that do not scream that they were designed or that use materials and resources in ways that are more responsible. This trend can be found all over the place these days, from Architecture For Humanity to even MoMA, with its recent show and book, "Small Scale, Big Change." The Soe Ker Tie House in Thailand by TYIN tegnestue (at right) obviously fits into this thread, as does Ballast Point Park in Australia by McGregor Coxall (a mixture of post-industrial ruins and landscape) and the Net House in India by Matharoo Associates (a weekend retreat of metal studs and mosquito netting). The Athaneum's awards page lets the images of the winning projects do that talking (some descriptive text would have been nice), but it's clear there is a lot to be said. They may not echo Narkiewicz-Laine's lofty assertion, but the winners are a diverse mix that shows a balance between form and the various considerations architects have to deal with these days.
[PODČETRTEK SPORTS HALL by enota | Photographs: Miran Kambič]
[LA CITÉ DES AFFAIRES OFFICE BUILDING by Manuelle Gautrand Architecture | Photographs: Philippe Ruault]
[Administration Center of Biological Office Park Suzhou in China by WSP Architects]
[Grotto Apartment Building by Ryuichi Ashizawa Architects & Associates]
[Ballast Point Park in Australia by McGregor Coxall]
[Open Architecture Project by Yoshiaki Oyabu Architects]
[Net House in India by Matharoo Associates]