The Royal Architecture Institute of Canada (RAIC) have announced that Li Xiaodong has been awarded the inaugural Moriyama International Prize, named after esteemed Canadian architect Raymond Moriyama. The prize, which comes with a monetary value of CAD$100,000, has been established to recognise buildings that are judged to be "transformative, inspired as well as inspiring, and emblematic of the human values of respect and inclusiveness."
The jury deliberated projects submitted from nine countries: Canada, China, France, Germany, Israel, Japan, South Korea, the United Kingdom and Tajikistan. According to the citation, the jury was "impressed by the breadth of international interest in the prize and encouraged by the high level of engagement with the aims and objectives of the program revealed in the submissions." The prize is open to all architects irrespective of nationality and location and seeks to recognise a single work of architecture (as opposed to a life’s work), celebrating buildings in use.
The Liyuan Library opened in May 2012 in the hillside village of Jiaojiehe. Li Xiaodong started working with the community before funding was in place in the hope that a well-designed library would not only improve life in the village but also boost the local economy by attracting tourists to the scenic area. The library was eventually funded by a rural-development grant from the Lu Qianshou Trust in Hong Kong. In his submission statement, Xiaodong states that "this project is about the relationship of a building to its surroundings and its role in serving the community, rather than a building as a discrete object."
"Instead of adding a new building in the village, we chose this site in the nearby mountains, a pleasant five-minute walk from the village centre," he said. "In doing so, we could provide a setting for clear thoughts when one consciously takes the effort to head for the reading room." Describing his practice, Xiaodong explains that "what I am trying to do might be described as reflexive regionalism," he said. "It’s more about identifying original conditions than inventing original forms. It’s about combining technology, community, local materials, modern thinking and a traditional sense of identity."
According to the RAIC, the jury’s deliberations went well beyond the videos and other materials included in the formal submissions. "Conversations with users, research and selected site visits complemented the jury’s review of the documentation provided by the architects. Each project was evaluated according to a set of criteria that included its formal and spatial qualities, its response to site, climate and culture, its craftsmanship, environmental design and its record of experience in use." The jury’s emphasis on the consideration of the ‘building in use’ – not just completed but occupied for at least two years – "differentiates this prize from other architectural competitions that judge buildings when they are new and even unbuilt", said David Covo, Professional Advisor to the jury.
In addition to the prize, students Loïc Jasmin, Université de Montréal; Benny Kwok, Dalhousie University; and Shu Yin Wu, University of Waterloo, each received a CAD$5,000 BMO Financial Group Scholarship.