It’s World Architecture Day and recently we discovered that two of our favourite destinations, Oslo Opera House and Harpa, are recipients of the European Union Mies van der Rohe Award for contemporary architecture. We’ve decided to have a look at some of the other winners.
Ludwig Mies van der Rohe was a German-American architect. Along with Le Corbusier, Walter Gropius and Frank Lloyd Wright, he is widely regarded as one of the pioneers of modernist architecture. In 1937 he settled in Chicago, Illinois, where he lived and worked for the remainder of his life.
According to architect Mies van der Rohe “less is more”. This penchant for pared buildings with flush details was something that the late architect’s buildings – including the stilt-supported glass box that is Farnsworth House, Illinois – reflected.
Mies van der Rohe’s German Pavilion for the Barcelona exposition (often called the Barcelona Pavilion) in 1929 is considered one of his two European masterworks and one of the best architectural works of the twentieth century. The Pavilion embodies the main objectives that led to the institution of the Mies van der Rohe Award: excellence and innovation in conceptual and constructional terms.
The European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award is granted every two years to acknowledge and reward quality architectural production in Europe.
In 2017, the winner of the award is DeFlat Kleiburg in Amsterdam.
The photo on its own reveals nothing interesting and one might wonder, what the heck?
Yet it is truly innovative architecture. DeFlat Kleiburg in Amsterdam is an innovative renovation of one of the biggest apartment buildings in The Netherlands called Kleiburg, a bend slab with 500 apartments in Amsterdam’s Bijlmermeer neighbourhood. Consortium DeFlat rescued the building from the wrecking ball by turning it into a “Klusflat”, meaning that the inhabitants renovate their apartments by themselves.
Kleiburg is the last original apartment building in the Bijlmermeer: a building larger than life – 400 meter long, 10 stories high, 500 apartments (of about 100 square metres each), 4 kilometres of galleries.
Housing Corporation Rochdale calculated that a thorough renovation would cost about €70 million. But bulldozing the BMF and building a lucrative low-rise development instead was not economically feasible either. The proposal that won the day was from Consortium DeFlat to renovate the main infrastructure – elevators, galleries, installations – while leaving the apartments unfinished. The future residents can buy the apartment “shell” and renovate it by themselves. For a very low price. And entirely according to their wishes. Owning a home is suddenly within reach. And the low price means that residents can buy two or more adjacent flats and combine them into one, either on a horizontal or vertical arrangement or a combination of both.
For the first time the Mies van der Rohe Award went to a project of renovation of an existing building: DeFlat Kleiburg, whose authors are the NL architects and XVW architectuur for Kondor WesselsVastgoed.
NL architects were awarded the Emerging Architect Prize of the EU Mies van der Rohe Award in 2005 for their work BasketBar in Utrecht.
In 2015, the winner was Philharmonic Hall in Szczecin, Poland by architects Barozzi/Veiga (Studio A4 collaborator).
Located in the heart of Szczecin, close to the river Oder, the new Philharmonic Hall aspires to be a symbolic link between the old town’s past and future. The auditorium is built on the site of the old “Konzerthaus”, demolished during World War II, recuperating a historical area and providing it with a new, contemporary urban plaza in order to create a dialog between public space and the building.
The building is shaped as a large, massive volume, configured by the addition of multiple gestures that resonate with the surrounding landscape. Inspired by the verticality of the traditional steep roofs, the town’s picturesque neo-Gothic towers and urban blocks, the building emerges from its industrial environment to form part of the city. Its translucent glass walls reflect light and colour, as a sort of massive crystal that strives to transform the space around it.
The Philharmonic Hall’s façade is specially designed to create the impression of an abstract, homogeneous surface that seems to glow both during day and night. The vertical structure behind the glass panelling holds a simple, yet effective system of double-skin façade that provides an improved acoustic insulation as well as allowing for natural ventilation. The translucency of the chosen materials allow for very different lighting qualities; during the day, the sunlight flows through skylights on the roof – at night-time, a LED lighting system seems to light up the auditorium.
In 2013, the winner was Harpa Reykjavik Concert Hall and Conference Centre in Reykjavik, Iceland.
Stay tuned for our visit to Harpa later this year!
In 2011, the winner was Neues Museum in Berlin by David Chipperfield Architects in collaboration with Julian Harrap.
The museum was opened in 1855 in a large neoclassical building, designed by German architect Friedrich August Stüler. During WWII, the museum building was severely damaged; it was only reopened in 2009, after the completion of an ambitious restoration and renovation project designed by British architect David Chipperfield.
Postwar, the Neues Museum found itself in East Germany, which, in its fervour to create a new world, had little interest in the old. Neglected, unloved and lucky not to be bulldozed, it was left as a hulking shell from 1945 to 1986, when some attempts were made to shore up its sorry fabric. It took the fall of the Berlin Wall in 1989 to get the ball rolling again, with British architect David Chipperfield winning the 1997 competition to return it to, or even surpass, its former glory.
The Neues Museum, which once housed a commanding collection of Egyptian and prehistoric art in lavishly decorated galleries, is one of five imposing buildings that constitute Berlin’s Museum Island. Designed by Friedrich August Stüler, it was completed in 1855 and intended to house the overspill from the Altes Museum situated across the street.
There were those who argued that the museum should be restored to exactly how it had been. Others wanted a modern whitewashed affair with plenty of neutral gallery space, to help the artworks hold their own against the architecture. Some simply objected to the idea of a British architect working on such an important German building. But the judges were won over by Chipperfield, who brought in another British architect, conservation specialist Julian Harrap, to help him create what can only be described as a piece of architectural sorcery: a beguiling mixture of the restored and the new that should silence most, if not all, of his detractors.
Chipperfield reconstructed and renewed the building, while Harrap painstakingly restored murals, frescoes, mosaics, long-lost colour schemes and fine detailing. Where there was nothing left to restore, Chipperfield designed bold new spaces – notably the magnificent central stairwell. And he has cleverly tucked away modern lighting, heating and security essentials into hidden spaces so that Stüler’s great promenade of rooms is entirely uninterrupted.
The marriage of old and new is respectful and subtle. Just look at that main stairwell. Retaining walls aside, there was nothing left of it after the war, so Chipperfield allowed himself a free hand, creating a show-stopping space: layers of old brick, render, paintwork and echoes of original frescoes blend into a modern palette of concrete and marble, all topped off with a timber roof. The effect is powerful and painterly. There will be no displays here. It’s an enormous breathing space, a ravishing hub visitors will return to again and again as they tour the museum’s connecting wings.
Stüler would probably have been pleased Chipperfield got the job. A great admirer of what was then cutting-edge British design and technology, the architect toured Birmingham’s ironworks and factories in 1842. He also visited the works of John Soane, the English architect whose Bank of England interiors influenced those of the Neues Museum, where each space is a new surprise. Thrillingly, Stüler’s debt to British engineering can still be seen throughout the restored museum. Despite its solemn stone-clad facades, which have been restored almost exactly as they were, the structure abounds in lightweight iron trusses and honeycomb brick and clay vaults, held in place by trim iron beams.
In 2009, the winner was Norwegian National Opera & Ballet in Oslo by Snøhetta.
Stay tuned for our visit to Oslo Opera House later this year!
One of the hallmarks of this particular building is the façade of more than 3,000 stained-glass windows in 42 different shades, inspired by the main rose window (called The Falconer) at the local 13th century Gothic cathedral, Santa María de León.
Getting a world-renowned architect to design a car-park is pretty cool. One of the best aspects of the Strasbourg scheme is that it illustrates how good design can be used everywhere and not just in august projects beget by learned clients with a decent budget at their disposal.
The work of Zaha Hadid has become universally appreciated. She has held an avant-garde position for many years. Despite its obvious graphic and scenographic power, the physical presence of the “building” is totally convincing. The EU Mies van der Rohe Award jury appreciated the economy of the project, with minimum means; not only the “shelter” of the tram station but also the surrounding field of car parking have been invested with great care and a place of great intensity and elegance has been created from an apparently “innocent” opportunity.
San Sebastián is a city lying in the midst of a complete geography: hills, beaches and capes all live together with the urban fabric, creating a world in itself. The Kursaal site has the flavour of the geography and the “building” tries to keep that after raising two gigantic rocks lying on the tidal wash where the river meets the sea. One “rock” faces Mount Urgull which protects the Concha beach. The other “rock” looks toward Mount Ulía, a further promontory, which defines the city borders. The exterior walls are curtain walls made from curved laminated glass with an aluminium structure, and appear as translucent solids, able to withstand the harsh weather conditions. This wall structure provides for changes in the appearance of the volumes. At night they become light boxes. The concert hall and congress hall “emerge” from a platform which holds all the other elements of the program.
The double voussoir walls have flat glass on the interior. Coupled with the curved glass on the exterior, the walls become supreme sound insulators.
Yet another building with a glass façade. The façade consists of etched glass shingles with several functions: they lend the building’s main body lightness with their transparency, insulate against cold and heat and form an essential part of the lighting arrangement for the building. The incoming light is refracted first on the façade before entering the interior.
The Kunsthaus Bregenz was conceived as a daylight museum. The façade serves as a skin to diffuse daylight which first passes through rows of windows and then through the light ceilings in the halls. Although the light has been refracted three times (glass façade, insulating glasswork, illuminated ceilings), it illuminates the halls differently depending on the time of day or year. In this way, a natural lighting atmosphere is created although the building has no visible windows. Over the hanging light ceiling, specially developed pendulum lamps, controlled by an exterior light sensor on the Kunsthaus roof, have been installed that complement the daylight. Every lamp can be controlled separately or as a group and can be infinitely dimmed.
The National Library of France was the largest of Mitterand´s grand projects for Paris: formed from four L-shaped corners of a square, 25 storeys tall on the banks of the Seine with a garden in the middle. It is a simple and powerful building, with a clear programme. Less is more!
The National Library of France is the third largest library in Europe. The new library building opened to the public in 1996, but the library’s actual foundation goes back to 1480. Among the millions of photographs at the French national library is the world’s oldest photograph, taken by Nicéphore Niepce in 1825 (which took 8 hours to develop). In 1997 the French national library was the ﬁrst library to provide full text access to a great deal of its collections via the Internet.
Designed by Grimshaw and Partners, International Terminal at Waterloo Station was one of the highest profile buildings in the world at the time of its completion in 1993, winning a number of prestigious awards. The building is best known for its roof, a superstructure of glass and steel held together by 299,000 individual components. Its luminous skin undulates gently as it curves and tapers along the tracks. Expansive glazing gives the arriving and departing trains impressive views out across Westminster, and the whole concourse a remarkable quality of light throughout the day.
The last international service left the iconic terminal in 2007 – just 13 years after it opened – when Eurostar moved to St Pancras.
Waterloo is the UK’s busiest station with more than 99 million people passing through each year, but the existing infrastructure was creaking under the strain. A £800m refurbishment project will get the station ready for longer trains and provide space for 30% extra passengers during the busiest times of the day, by rebuilding the former Eurostar terminal. Not sure if the roof will survive the redevelopment!