It is as difficult to create as it is to convert the architect’s intervention into a legacy beyond that which remains in the environment where it is practiced. At The Decorative Surfaces this week we set our eyes on the main and most prestigious international prizes that are awarded to professionals in architecture and interior design.
When in 1978, YvoneFarrel and Shelley McNamara founded their architecture studio, Grafton Architects, the Pritzker Prize did not yet exist. It would go on to become one of the most prestigious and benchmark recognitions for architecture professionals worldwide that has been awarded by the Hyatt Foundation since 1979. 47 prestigious architects have already kept in their showcases, who have been awarded in the 42 editions in which the award has been presented.
Precisely, these Irish-born, of professional origin and professors by vocation, were the last creditors of the award in 2020. For both, architecture is not understood without the necessary transmission of knowledge through the explanation of the projects that make history when getting up, with respect for the environment in which they are located.
As a geographical anecdote, the Pritzker has already been received by architects from all continents, except Africa. Will the 2021 edition point to emblematic interventions by an African professional?
Alvar Aalto Medal
The Alvar Aalto Medal is another prestigious prize that has been awarded since 1967 by the Finnish Museum of Architecture and the Finnish Association of Architects. They commemorate the creative legacy of its Master. The common denominator for professionals who receive honor size is the creative capacity of their interventions. Aalto managed to encourage harmony as an essential value of architecture.
A harmony practiced, according to the jury, by the hitherto last owner of the award, the Chinese Zhang Ke (Estudio ZAO). He obtained it in 2018 for his career, in a permanent combined bet between landscape and architecture and in a natural coexistence pure. Throughout his career preservation prevails over demolition.
RIBA Gold Medal
It can be considered the longest-running award in the industry. The Royal Institute of British Architects Gold Medal is an annual gift given by Queen Elizabeth II on behalf of British architects. Notably, it has been in editions since 1848.
In the architectural journey undertaken from that year for three centuries to the present day, the award stands as a reference or encyclopedia of the names that have marked the history of the specialty. Thus, Charles Robert Cockerell, Charles Follen McKim, Ernest Newton, Frank Lloyd Wright, Le Courbusier, KenzöTange, Berthold Lubetkin, Norman Foster, Rafael Moneo or Zaha Hadid compose examples of the historical trajectory and the legacy of these referents of global architecture.
The exception is in 1999, when instead of a professional, the institution awarded the Gold Medal to Barcelona. The jury’s decision justified the uniqueness in the regeneration achieved by the city “in the two decades after the restoration of democracy” and for “providing a brilliant example to other cities, especially London.” Therefore, the RIBA “arranged break with tradition in order to pay tribute to the city, its government, its citizens and its design artists.”
Aga Khan Award
The Aga Khan Prize for Architecture has been awarded since 1977 every three years. The prized projects establish new standards of excellence, planning, historical preservation and landscape architecture. Moreover, the prize, which until 2019 had already been awarded to more than 120 projects, seeks to identify and promote construction concepts that successfully address the needs and aspirations of societies in which Muslims have a significant presence.
In the last triannual wave of awards, the IDOM group from Bilbao (Spain) received one of them for the lecture hall that it projected on the AliuneDiop University Campus in Bambey (Senegal). The study faced the challenge of an enclave that easily exceeds 40ºC in temperature. Thanks to its intervention, students since 2017 can attend training sessions in a cooler environment. This is thanks to the use of materials based on a structural grid with concrete, beams and posts that facilitated on-site prefabrication. Likewise, the reflective sandwich plate roof slides the hot air out with a bioclimatic reinforcement inside made of gravel and vegetation.
The Aga Khan Prize for Architecture is part of the Aga Khan Development Network (AKDN), which currently operates in 30 countries. It employs approximately 80,000 people, the majority of whom are in developing countries such as the Senegal example cited.
Driehaus Prize for Classical Architecture
Our last stop for the world architectural awards is made in the most secular reference, in terms of trends. The Driehaus Prize awarded since 2003 by the School of Architecture of Notre Dame University, Indiana (United States). This award is focused on architects who practice the most classical and traditional architectural heritage. And, above concrete projects, what this award recognizes are professional careers.
Precisely, and despite the fact that the delivery ceremony of the 2020 edition was canceled as a result of the coronavirus health crisis, this year’s winner is the Thai Ong-ardSatrabhandhu. His work, according to Michael Lykoudis, chairman of the award jury, demonstrates innovation within tradition; his projects have a unique beauty that results from incorporating lessons from years of study in diverse cultures. The buildings resulting from his work blend seamlessly with the vernacular traditions of Thailand.