What can Architecture contribute to the common good?

Architecture and its transformative and social value is the topic which the Obel Award is dedicated to. The Obel Award is a new, international prize for architectural achievement, presented annually by the Henrik Frode Obel Foundation. It honours outstanding architectural contributions to human development. The OBEL AWARD offers an incentive to architects worldwide to consider their obligations towards the common good. The award aims to increase awareness in the general public of the transformative and social value of architecture. The annual prize was awarded for the first time in 2019.

Winner 2019: The inaugural Obel Award was going to the Art Biotop Water Garden by Junya Ishigami & Associates.
The new Botanical Farm Garden Art Biotop is an outdoor extension of the existing Art Biotop Nasu, a resort that offers courses in pottery, glass making, and other artistic activities. With its deliberate composition of natural elements, the man-made landscape Art Biotop Water Garden resets the boundaries between architecture, landscape architecture, art, and environmentalism. The garden is at the same time a highly artificial landscape, carefully modelled and dependent on technological artifacts, and an undeniably natural and living organism that grows and changes by its own inherent dynamics. In this way, the garden intermingles different time-spaces: a presence of former, existing and future layers of landscapes. But although it is a large-scale and rather invasive project, involving the relocation of an entire forest tree by tree, Junya Ishigami makes evident what great respect and care for the environment means.

Ishigami’s approach relies in large part on emotions and sensations and is based on the context and the qualities of the landscape. The result is a landscape full of beauty and atmosphere – a highly poetic space that strongly influences the emotions of the visitor. With the project, Ishigami invites professionals within the fields of architecture and visitors alike to foster a greater appreciation for the environment and to understand our relationship to it, but also to act with imagination, bravery, and respect. The project demonstrates how we can interact with and make our imprint on nature without destroying it. In this sense, the Art Biotop Water Garden is a seminal contribution to the fields of architecture.

Martha Schwartz, Chair of the Jury, says:
»Ishigami’s architecture is the architecture of space, not of object, which is a departure from conventional architecture. He discards the idea of architecture as a built, utilitarian structure by reversing the business-as-usual process, which is: building first, landscape second – if at all. Instead, with the project Water Garden, Ishigami leaves us wondering: is this architecture, landscape architecture, or art?«

Obel Award 2019 - Art Biotop Water Garden
Obel Award 2019 - Art Biotop Water Garden
Obel Award 2019 - Art Biotop Water Garden
Obel Award 2019 - Art Biotop Water Garden

Winner 2020: Anandaloy project in Bangladesh, by Studio Anna Heringer.

The second OBEL AWARD is presented to Anandaloy, a project in rural Bangladesh by Anna Heringer. Anandaloy means The Place of Deep Joy in the local dialect of Bangla/Bengali. According to the jury, the unconventional building, which is made out of mud and bamboo, shows in its own playful and humble way that architecture can contribute to mending the climate as well as social injustice and segregation.

Martha Schwartz, Chair of the Jury, says:
“To all of us in the jury, Anandaloy is an outstanding project. It is an original piece. It is not in the style of; it is not imitating something else. I think Anna is absolutely dedicated to what she is doing, which is what you see when you see a good piece of art: that there is a good, focused intent behind it. Anna manages to integrate all of her values: she is building sustainably, using the materials that are there, having people involved, so that they can learn to build for themselves, and creating more opportunities for women and for people with disabilities. You can feel that she has a real respect for the culture, for the people, for the land.“

Architecturally, the building explores the plastic abilities of bamboo and rammed earth in order to create a stronger identity and thereby to celebrate nonconformity and diversity. Rather than being straight-lined, the building dances in curves, a ramp winding playfully around its inner structure. Constructed from only local materials and with the know-how of local craftsmanship, the Anandaloy project respects the local culture and tradition, and from a very simple design and subtle approach still manages to integrate a diverse range of both human needs and programmatic abilities without damage to the environment.

Like science, politics and economics, architecture too is asked to take responsibility for the environment and to avoid further damage to our planet. The Anandaloy project affirms that taking on this obligation can be done both responsively and responsibly.

Obel Award 2020, Anandaloy
Obel Award 2020, Anandaloy
Obel Award 2020, Anandaloy
Obel Award 2020, Anandaloy

Presentation Video


References:

The Obel Award. (n.d.). Retrived from https://obelaward.org/winner-2019/

The Obel Award. (n.d.). Retrived from https://obelaward.org/winner-2020/

Image Source:

@ 2020 Junya Ishigami & Associates, Japan
@ 2020 Anna Heringer, Laufen