The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) has announced the shortlist of four finalist projects in the running for the 2018 RIBA International Prize.
The 2018 RIBA International Prize will be awarded to a building which exemplifies design excellence, architectural ambition and delivers meaningful social impact. The RIBA International Prize winner and RIBA Awards for International Excellence winners will be selected from the RIBA International List 2018 – a selection of the world’s best new buildings compiled from the entries to the awards.
Whilst these four buildings are in different time zones and continents, like all great architecture they share common qualities, of particular note is their sensitivity to their local environment and their responsiveness to the particular needs of the people that will use them”.
The prize is open to any qualified architect in the world, for a building of any size, type or budget and will be adjudicated by a distinguished Grand Jury led by Elizabeth Diller, partner of acclaimed US firm, Diller Scofidio + Renfro.
The winner, to be announced on 29th November, will be chosen by a jury including Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofidio + Renfro (chairperson), Joshua Bolchover of Rural Urban Framework, Gloria Cabral of Gabinete de Arquitectura, Peter Clegg of Feilden Clegg Bradley Studios, and Kazuyo Sejima of SANAA.
The Prize, awarded every two years, brings international attention to the most inspirational and significant new buildings across the globe but also to a range of the industry’s leading talents.
Below, we outline the four projects in the running for the 2018 RIBA International Prize.
Central European University (Phase 1) / O’Donnell + Tuomey
This part-new part-refurbished university building has architectural éclat but great modesty. The scheme is in a World Heritage site of fine stone buildings and within sight of the Danube. This first phase of 15,000 m² connects two of four buildings on the site; the entrance building is new and the second building is refurbished.
But the project may not progress, the Hungarian government have indicated that they plan to close the University in response to a dispute with George Soros and the Open Society Institute that funds the University.
The design diagram picks up on Budapest’s heritage of courtyards and knits together several buildings in a largely internal sequence of spaces and routes made with local stone and brick used with great warmth.
One of the achievements of the design is the intimate way in which the connections between the two buildings have been made in plan and section with clarity as to what is new and what existing. The lead architect took care to respond to Budapest vernacular and to make international and local forms intertwine, echoing the university’s mission. O’Donnell and Tuomey also found an egalitarian way of working with the local architect using indigenous materials with an artisanal quality and detailing them to be built within local contractors’ capabilities.
The entrance is through an impressive stone façade that indents from the street line to provide shelter. This is the only elevation that has longer views, in this case down a narrow street to the Danube, and great play is made at upper levels to afford sight of the distant water. From street level one can see down into the public auditorium and the narrow entrance is also open to all comers. Once inside the building there is a linear atrium that rises its full seven storeys. The lower three floors are accessible to the public with the 400 seat basement auditorium level plus café, meeting rooms and reading areas at upper level accessed by spiral stair.
For those studying at the University the circulation at higher levels encourages serendipitous journeys through a seamless collection of diverse spaces accommodating the faculties, spaces that merge together without apparent boundaries. Even the magnificent four-storey library atop the building avoids heavy acoustic doors, having instead an acoustic labyrinth remove ambient noise as you climb around a stair. The library has its own atrium topped by a slanting rooflight and, as elsewhere in the scheme, daylight gives orientation to a series of human-scaled spaces that provide nooks or niches for study, although not in this case for conversation.
The second building mainly houses academic offices arranged around a courtyard with another slanting rooflight and is accessed through simple openings in the brick party wall at ground and at upper levels by handsome red stairs that slice through the section. Typical of the informality and utility of the internal spaces is the stair landing which led to an impromptu conversation with the Rector, who talked about the galvanising impact of the architecture on the ability of the university to teach a variety of disciplines and defending the CEU’s work at a very difficult time.
This is an exceptionally fine urban campus with few compromises providing a wonderful stage for the university and the city. The building has become the architectural platform for the preservation of the values that the university espouses – transparency, community, higher education and democracy. Spaces like the auditorium have assumed a public symbolic role in the fight for the University’s preservation.
Children Village / Aleph Zero + Rosenbaum
The Children’s Village provides boarding accommodation for 540 senior school children at the Canuanã School. Run and funded by the Bradesco Foundation, it is one of forty schools providing education for disadvantaged local children. The foundation owns a large farm in a remote area of the Tocantins Region, where this school is based, and provides accommodation for farm workers, teachers and 840 children, with numerous school buildings, a refectory and a small hospital.
The boarding accommodation is in two identical structures, set either side of the school campus, one each for girls and boys. Each is defined by a huge timber roof canopy, which hovers over freestanding timber structures providing the accommodation. The roof is supported on a grid of elegantly detailed, glue laminated timber beams and columns, a very unusual building material for Brazil. There are large openings above three beautifully landscaped courtyard gardens, which are lined by the dormitories. Each has beds for six children and is distinguished by a uniquely patterned door panel. Internally, the furniture has been specially designed and every room has toilets, shower rooms, and a laundry, which is ventilated using perforated brickwork, handmade on site.
The roof tilts from West to East, allowing space for first floor accommodation above the dormitories to the West and in the centre, and is cleverly drained using pairs of coloured rain water pipes. To the West a series of sculptural timber stairs rise to the upper level with its generous walkways and balconies, giving views across the site and over the courtyards. This open air space is for recreational use and inhabited with furniture and a stage. Slatted timber screens define three enclosed spaces. One is a study room with a large work table, whilst the others are used for relaxing and watching television.
Below the canopy to the East is wide colonnaded walk way. Diagonal views into the planted courtyards and out to the wider landscape seamlessly unite the building with its rural location. It is a wonderful and masterful response to the brief and entirely appropriate in its tropical environment. The whole feels relaxed, comfortable and homely and is well loved and maintained.
Toho Gakuen School of Music / Nikken Sekkei
This school of music in the Tokyo suburbs replaced an earlier building on the site, which had a conventional arrangement of cellular practice rooms along a double loaded corridor with no natural light.
This is a virtuoso example of the architect fully understanding the needs and brief of the clients and users. Nikken Sekkei researched the exact scale and proportions of music practice rooms suitable for each instrument. The majority of these rooms are located on the first floor and are separated creating a kind ‘village’ of music rooms with the spaces between providing acoustic separation as well as vistas through the building to the outside area. This allows practice rooms to be partially glazed thus ending the cell-like isolation of the traditional layouts and enabling visual connections between musicians. Music from each room can be heard in the corridor, but in the rooms there is silence.
At ground floor there is a large campus space, with a calm almost monastic feel. Its placed to borrow views from the adjacent cemetery and enjoy the carefully manicured pine trees growing there. In the basement are the larger group practice rooms, and noisier instruments, percussion for example, that use the ground as acoustic absorption. Whilst these are not glazed, courtyards are sunk to light the corridor.
Materially concrete seems a natural choice, acoustic absorption panels line the ceilings and the walls have an ingenious timber cladding system that traps sound within the practice rooms.
The school responds to the urban grain of surrounding houses, its broken up façade reduces its scale externally, internally the experience is like walking around a village. The deep plan is broken up using courtyards to naturally light and ventilate more areas. Windows are carefully placed to give glimpses out as the visitor moves about the school, which in itself is a magical experience, combining joyous sounds, light and views. There is an extraordinary richness to this scheme.
Il Bosco Verticale (Vertical Forest) / Boeri Studio
Milan’s Il Bosco Verticale (the Vertical Forest) is a new approach to high rise buildings in which trees and humans co-exist. In essence it is an architectural concept which replaces traditional materials on urban surfaces using the changing polychromy of leaves for its walls. The project consists of two towers of 80m and 112m, planted with almost 17,000 trees, shrubs and plants. This provides the equivalent greenery –over an urban surface of 1,500m² – of 20,000m² of forest and undergrowth.
This is an approach that contributes to the regeneration of the environment and urban biodiversity, without expanding the territory of the city. Compared to many other superficial tokenistic ‘green towers’ this is an impressive experiment and deserves to exert influence over the development of tower design in the future.
The towers replaced an old industrial building once occupied by artists, which has been reconstructed nearby as Art Incubator, and are part of a wider, incomplete, masterplan. While they in part seem anti urban – a vestige of the Corbusian Ville Radieuse ideal– they do allow park space to be created in addition to the substantial vertical bio-diversity gained.
One can’t but admire the impact of the mature greenery as a beacon of Milan’s seasons whilst offering verdant balconies as substantial amenities to individual apartments.
Arriving at the right selection of vegetation took years of testing. Plants had two years of observation to determine which were most resilient for the conditions. Species and specific strains were chosen not only based on the climate and sun conditions but also in their ability to resist simulated wind tunnel test. The size of the trees is controlled by the volumetric dimensions of the planter base thus only plants needed to be able to survive the constrictive bases. From the plants tested during the two-year period only the strongest 80% were then planted.
Article text courtesy of RIBA