Since 2005 more than 150 projects advancing sustainability of the built environment haven been celebrated in the Holcim Awards as outstanding, innovative and inspiring examples of sustainable construction. Winning a prize in this international competition has sign-posted professional success for the project teams; highlighted sustainability on the public agenda; accelerated tangible change for urban poor; and secured funding for environmental recovery and research. Beyond holding a trophy aloft, the momentum of sustainable construction has continued for the architects behind projects in locations as diverse as Burkina Faso, Spain, India, and Canada.
More after the break.
School brings new learning on building materials
The elegant simplicity of this Secondary School building project in Burkina Faso uses traditional building materials and technologies that also enable the active involvement of local people in the construction process. The project is exemplary in terms of its successful approach to the adaptive use of building materials, community development, climatic mitigation and aesthetics.
The design is tailored for the dry tropical savanna by Berlin-based architect Diébédo Francis Kéré, of Kéré Achitecture. Kéré was the first person from his village to study internationally and is also the son of the village headman. The school complex takes inspiration from traditional construction and is conscious of prevailing winds and local climatic conditions. The construction methodology was adapted to use larger clay elements cast in place instead of bricks for the walls, using similar materials but with the addition of gravel.
The secondary school in the village of Gando in Burkina Faso won the Global Holcim Awards Gold 2012 from more than 6,000 competition entries from all over the world. In addition Diébédo Francis Kéré has received the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004, Global Award for Sustainable Architecture in 2009, BSI Swiss Architectural Award in 2010, Marcus Prize for Architecture in 2011, and is one of three internationally-renowned designers to work on the International Red Cross and Red Crescent Museum in Geneva. He was also appointed Guest Professor at the Mendrisio Academy of Architecture, Switzerland in 2013. The Holcim Awards success is one of many accolades that this extraordinary architect has acquired in his flourishing career.
Icon of urban renewal
Metropol Parasol by Berlin-based architect Jürgen Mayer H directly confronts the loss of public space through the redevelopment of Plaza de la Encarnación in Seville, Spain. The project integrates urban, architectural, and landscape design to create a sustainable response to the contemporary challenges facing the region.
Metropol Parasol is a device for revitalizing a public square that was used as a parking lot for years and seen as a void between more popular tourist destinations in the city. The structure contains a market, shops, and a podium for concerts and events. In its basement are the ruins of a Roman district, with mosaics and sufficient wall fragments to evoke a sense of what the houses were like. On the roof there is a restaurant, a viewing gallery, and a winding, undulating walkway from which to appreciate the views of the city skyline. Intended to be an injection of life and culture in an under-used space of the city center, this ambitious and imposing project is a complex example of the transformative potential of architecture.
The project expands the materiality of architecture, reaching beyond the physical with the exploration of space as a platform for communication and socio-cultural interactivity and creates a new dialog for urban renewal. Metropol Parasol won the Holcim Awards Bronze 2005 for Europe and was recognized by the jury for its potential to attract new ideas for urban regeneration, to involve participation and engagement within the city’s heart, and to be part of a brave experiment in the potential for architecture to catalyze a heightened sense of awareness.
Prize money poured into the sewer
The lack of sanitation is one of the major problems in underdeveloped settlements. Significant improvement in hygiene and strengthened social cohesion can be achieved by applying an additive strategy, within the local community by involving the residents throughout the process can be achieved. A pilot project in New Delhi commenced in 2012 to provide off-grid sanitation to more than 1,500 people.
The Decentralized sanitation system by PhD student in architecture, Julia King, had received the Holcim Awards “Next Generation” 3rd prize for Asia Pacific in 2011. Since then, the prize money funds from the Holcim Awards competition were used to develop the project: to survey the site, engage with an engineer, mobilize the community and engage the project author for more than a year.
The fully-developed proposal has since received government funding for a pilot project. The next phase of the project will involve retrofitting of sanitation services to enable 322 households (more than 1,500 people) to have toilets in Savda Gherva, which grow into New Delhi’s largest resettlement colony. The aim is to implement a viable system that will become a transferable model sanitation solution for unconnected (off-grid) low-income settlements, especially suited to the context of slum redevelopment.
Julia King is now working with relocated families and local contractors to design and help build housing that would be structurally safe, technically sound, economical, and capable of being built incrementally. The prototype, inspired by Le Corbusier’s “Maison Dom-ino” uses structural columns and slabs that can be in-filled in the future. It is hoped that the outcomes and lessons learned from this process will serve as a model for similar applications in other resettlement and upgrading schemes throughout urban India. Current work is ongoing in creating guidelines for large scale master plans for both medium sized cities and new urban developments that will thoroughly test the model.
Just add water
The Living with Lakes Center for Applied Research in Environmental Restoration and Sustainability sits on the shore of Lake Ramsey, the natural drinking water reservoir of Sudbury, a city of 150,000 people in northern Ontario. The outstanding strengths of this project are twofold. Firstly, the new research and exhibition center was built according to the most stringent criteria of sustainable construction minimizing the ecological footprint and assuring self-reliance with regard to energy and heat supply. Secondly, the research conducted in this center contributes to the restoration of Sudbury’s ecosystem with an emphasis on guaranteeing the drinking water quality and quantity for future generations.
The selection of the project by the Holcim Awards regional jury was a tremendous boost to the project’s implementation – both through the financial support of the prize money, but also through media and professional recognition of the value of the project. “The recognition that the Holcim Awards brought to this project was a major turning point in our fundraising effort to complete the construction”, says project leader and scientist at Laurentian University, John Gunn. “I truly believe we would not have succeeded without it, especially in this difficult financial time.”
The center and the water reservoir are ﬁtted with instrumentation to monitor all the effectiveness of the array of technical features and the consequent impact on lake water quality. The results are communicated to the public through web-based media and exhibitions at the nearby science center of Sudbury. The project is a practical demonstration of sustainable construction in action, and the broad dissemination of the gained knowledge.
Holcim Awards competition now open for entries
The Holcim Awards competition seeks projects that demonstrate an ability to stretch conventional notions about sustainable building and also balance environmental, social and economic performance – while also exemplifying architectural excellence and a high degree of transferability. Images and details of all 153 former Holcim Awards winning projects can be viewed at www.holcimfoundation.org/Projects/Search.
The 4th International Holcim Awards competition is open for entries now. Registration is free using a simple online entry form, and closes on March 24, 2014. More information about how to participate at www.holcimawards.org.