The Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) is a globally renowned chartered membership to a professional society, for architects predominantly from the United Kingdom but also from across the globe. Their agenda is to promote superior structures and spaces that build stronger communities and are environmentally sensitive. They drive architectural expertise at a global level.
The International Awards for Excellence takes place every two years and aims to acknowledge the most “significant and inspirational projects around the world”. The first edition of these awards occurred in 2018 and the 2020 edition was postponed due to the pandemic. Hence, this year’s awards will be the third edition. These awards are open to any qualified architects worldwide, except the UK which separately bestows a RIBA Stirling Prize. The projects need to be ambitious with excellent designs and profound social impacts.
“The 2021 RIBA International Awards for Excellence are presented to an ambitious and diverse range of projects from a wide range of established and upcoming architects’ practices,” RIBA president Alan Jones said.
The winners were announced in July 2021. The winning submissions of 2021 saw marvelous projects ranging from masterplans and infrastructure schemes, cultural centers, hospitals, and memorials to private residencies. 16 new buildings across 11 countries covered this range. This conclusion was arrived at after subjecting each of the 16 projects to a meticulous judging process. Each project was visited by its corresponding local ambassador appointed by the RIBA.
David Chipperfield Architects has won two prizes, for its cube-shaped office block in Seoul and the James Simon Galerie in Berlin. Other projects include Hooba Design Group’s design for brick manufacturer Kohan Ceram, a Tehran office building clad in a unique type of brick with glass inserts. Herzog & de Meuron and Purcell collaborated on a project to combine conservation and adaptive reuse to create the Tai Kwun arts centre in Hong Kong. The four shortlisted projects for the International Excellence Prize 2021 and International Emerging Architect Prize will be unveiled in September.
The key trends that emerge from the winning projects include-
Multifunctional buildings benefit local communities
Renovation of the Captain’s House in China is the epitome of how a modern family house could be extended to serve both domestic and community use. Dongziguan Villagers’ Activity Center in China is a village community center between the old and new villages to foster local interaction and public activities.
Buildings can resolve pre-existing environmental issues
The Friendship Hospital in Bangladesh encompasses a canal feature that traverses the site to harvest rainwater and supports microclimatic cooling. An array of courtyards ensures sufficient infiltration of sunlight and natural air circulation. The Polygon Gallery in Canada is raised one meter above the ground to create room for rising sea levels.
Buildings can have a historically sensitive context
The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in the USA honors and documents the victims of racial terror lynchings. The underlying idea is to change conversations around racial justice in the country. The James-Simon-Galerie in Germany is a visitor center for the Unesco World Heritage Site of Museum Island in Berlin which gently delves into the architectural and political territory.
A jury led by globally renowned multidisciplinary French architect and urban planner Odile Decq will announce the winner in November. The jury consists of-
- Es Devlin OBE- an artist and stage designer
- Jeannne Gang- founder of Studio Gang (headquarters in Chicago)
- Rossana Hu- Founding Partner of an international architecture firm Neri&Hu, based in Shanghai
- Gustavo Utrabo- Winner of the 2018 RIBA International Prize and Emerging Architect Prize
“It is particularly important to be considering excellence in architecture at this time – in this fast-changing world, where governments, clients, and society need the skills and insight of architects,” Alan Jone added.
“Our global awards show how well-considered, well-delivered, and well-performing architecture has the immense potential to improve lives and communities. We are very pleased to be able to celebrate some of the most innovative, ingenious, and impactful architecture in the world – designed by some of the most talented architects of our time.”
The inaugural RIBA International Prize in 2016 was bestowed upon Grafton Architects for UTEC (Universidad de Ingeniería y Tecnología) in Lima, Peru. In 2018, the prize was awarded to Aleph Zero and Rosenbaum, for their innovative school complex on the edge of the Amazon rainforest in northern Brazil, Children Village.
Awards not only honor talent and innovation in the field of architecture but also disseminate a significant social message associated with the projects. They’re an effective tool to introduce the world to newer ideas. A fascinating dialogue is woven into this world of architecture. After all, the winning structures are not just statement pieces but also powerful outcomes that have arisen from an amalgamation of a series of ideas. The intent of a project speaks through its design.
ArchDaily. 2021. RIBA Announces 16 Winning Projects for the RIBA International Awards for Excellence 2021. [online] Available at: <https://www.archdaily.com/965501/riba-announces-16-winning-projects-for-the-riba-international-awards-for-excellence-2021> [Accessed 16 August 2021].
Architecture.com. 2021. RIBA International Awards. [online] Available at: <https://www.architecture.com/awards-and-competitions-landing-page/awards/riba-international-awards> [Accessed 16 August 2021].
Carlson, C., 2021. RIBA announces winners of International Awards for Excellence 2021. [online] Dezeen. Available at: <https://www.dezeen.com/2021/07/22/riba-international-awards-excellence-2021/> [Accessed 16 August 2021].
Staff, A., 2021. RIBA Announces 2021 International Awards for Excellence Winners. [online] Architect. Available at: <https://www.architectmagazine.com/awards/riba-announces-2021-international-awards-for-excellence-winners_o> [Accessed 16 August 2021].