Edition 2019

Jury Proceedings
European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture - Mies van der Rohe Award 2019

The Jury of the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award decided to award the 2019 Prize to the Transformation of 3 Housing Blocks, 530 Dwellings – Grand Parc Bordeaux, commissioned by AQUITANIS to  Lacaton & Vassal architects, Frédéric Druot Architecture and Christophe Hutin Architecture.

The jury members met on three occasions. In their first meeting held in Barcelona on January 9-11, 2019, the Jury reviewed the 383 works that had been nominated by the national architects’ associations, experts and the Advisory Committee. After extensive discussions over three days, 40 works were shortlisted, from which 5 finalists were chosen. They also selected the winner of the Emerging Architecture category: E26 (school refectory), commissioned by the Village of Montbrun-Bocage to BAST.

The chairwoman of the jury underlined that the 40 works highlight a new agenda that asks for new ways of thinking. Excellence and skilfulness are inherent in all of them, but this is not enough; it is necessary that they also make an impact and make architects themselves think differently about the profession. The jury also drew special attention to the fact that more and more people see, feel and experience that architecture is not anymore about self-referentiality, about doing the best, the most chic and shiny. Instead, it is really about improving our lives and the way we live together. The crisis has been like a warning but also an incentive to do more with less: more architecture with less material, less costs, etc. It is an evolution that we can see in the scale of the nominated projects, but we must also be aware of the ecological crisis and change the way we are living on the planet. This is not just about technology, materials, or insulating; it is really about how we plan and organise the territory.

The Jury also considered that the 5 finalist works tackle undetermined programs which allow people to find different ways of using spaces and transform them into different places:

Plasencia Auditorium and Congress Centre by selgascano.
The building is extremely outspoken in its architecture, both spatially and in terms of detail, yet it feels benign, friendly and welcoming. The radical choices in organisation, routing, material use and colour scheme are truly attractive, creating a form of increased gravity. When judging a new building, the question might come up of how it will survive exposure to the elements. In this case, however, the trickiest component, the EFTE cladding, was already mounted several years ago and amazingly, its skin looks as good as new; it has no wrinkles following the chronic sun exposure, no seborrheic keratoses or cherry angiomas due to ageing. The auditorium also discusses contradictions between the abstract and the specific, between art and architecture. A stationary building with a temporary expression, it blurs the boundary between inside and outside. Behind its irregular shape is a noble motif paying respect to the slowness of nature and an urge to protect the environment from human intervention.

PC CARITAS in Melle by architecten de vylder vinck taillieu
A clever hospital director dared to ask: “What if?” As a result, the Psychiatric Centre Caritas got an urban, multi-story park plaza and experimental hall instead of a standard open square. This is sustainability at its core: to reuse, adapt and transform existing structures and materials into new objects and places of even greater value. Not only the building has undergone transformation, as PC Caritas provokes the memory and history of the site, shaping its future. Out of respect for the original campus structure, the project brings back the park as a place for meeting and healing in a new and different way. Exemplifying the power of architecture as an agent of change, this project serves as inspiration for future refurbishments and as a promoter of architectural experiments. “Can't a house become a public square?”, asked architects de vylder vinck taillieu, and dismantled the house to create a multi-storey open space shared by people, plants and animals.

Terrassenhaus Berlin / Lobe Block by Brandlhuber+ Emde, Burlon and Muck Petzet Architekten
A mixed-use building offering the bare essentials where the blending of the private and public realms is a living experiment and existing norms are questioned. This radical take on a traditional type enables users to occupy the building both indoors and outdoors in every possible way. Offering the ultimate freedom in a beautiful and practical setting, this building is the essence of architecture. In a time where digital technologies are changing how and when we work, this type of project provides space for new correlations of living and working looking for fellowship and room to experiment. Working consciously with balancing public and private space, the stepped terraces on one side provide a shielded public space, while on the other side there is a meeting point for the occupants. The thoughts behind this building are liberating and truly innovative, difficult to imagine a better place to unleash ones creativity.

Skanderbeg Square in Tirana by 51N4E, Anri Sala, Plant en Houtgoed and iRI
The project serves as inspiration for urban planners and landscape architects designing spaces for public intimacy through the combination of an open programme and a tight composition. It is also an outstanding example of the transformation of a monumental context into a place for a democratic society without erasing the past. The authors work as curators provoking space for any type of activity and level of privacy, with only a few, simple interventions: the flat pyramid giving people the opportunity to face the monumental architecture at eye level and the green belt surrounding the plaza that connects the bustling city to the peaceful square. The architects had the ability to transform a nowhere of this size into an attractive place for a break from the urban chaos of Tirana with great respect for its history, its context and future users; design is used to deal with the challenge of supporting such a huge scale.

The jury had a difficult time choosing the winner due to the high quality of the 5 works. After an extended discussion on the merits of each of the works, the Jury agreed to award the Prize to Transformation of 3 Housing Blocks, 530 Dwellings – Grand Parc Bordeaux which presents the housing question in a different way and speaks about the heritage of the mass housing of the 20th century, its impending demolition and the improvement of living conditions through transformation. The conversations with the neighbours had a strong impact on the jury members who also highlighted the updating of climate requirements through architecture and not only through material addition.

For the first time the jury visited the emerging architecture work and it was drawn by the extremely precise implementation and design decisions of the School Refectory in Montbrun-Bocage. These make the building a remarkable project built on a relatively small budget, creating a new spatial experience which shows that urban planning can also take place in rural situations. The work was done with extreme humbleness, taking into account the context of the village and the immediate landscape, thereby creating a very respectful work of architecture where the simplicity of its devices and construction offers generous space, excellent capacity of use and immense poetry.

The Jury met for a third time at the Awards Ceremony which took place on May 7 at the Barcelona Pavilion, with the participation of Mrs. Viviane Hoffmann (Deputy Director-General for Education, Youth, Sport and Culture of the European Commission) and Mr. Josep Maria Montaner (Councillor of Housing and Renovation of the Barcelona City Council). The clients of the six works discussed about their role in the construction of these exceptional buildings and the architects presented their work, before receiving the sculptures that celebrate the 2019 cycle of the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award with the jury members and all those participating in the open event.

June 2019
Dorte Mandrup - Jury Chairwoman, George Arbid,   Angelika Fitz, Ștefan Ghenciulescu, Kamiel Klaasse, María Langarita, Frank McDonald, Anna Ramos - Jury Secretary