The meaning of architecture?


In 2008 and 2009 we were shortlisted for prizes regarding two projects of our office and in 2010 we postponed our visit to the WAF. We planned to travel to the WAF in 2011 as reporters who have written a blog for de Architect and we are very pleased that Editor in Chief Harm Tilman has given us a platform.

The meaning of architecture?
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In 2008 the WAF started for the first time in Barcelona and for us this was a new and interesting happening because we were relative young office in the Netherlands. It was impressive to see all the great names at the WAF, such as Peter Cook, Norman Foster and Charles Jencks.

In 2009 we were again at the WAF, and we met also other great names such as Coop Himmelbau, Zaha Hadid, Unstudio, and Fuijmoto. We gave of this a full 3 day report on the website of de Architect.

In 2011 we observed and experienced a declining quality, but we cannot point out what this has caused. Maybe it is due to the uncertain financial situation. It is also possible that the freshness has gone. Maybe it is an idea to give it a break for a few years and to reflect how to achieve and guard a high quality standard at the next WAF.

This is not meant as a harsh critic, but is truly coming out of our experiences Quality is an global theme which can be seen and judged with a local and culture basic understanding. We will see what 2012 will bring for the next WAF ! Maybe: what is the meaning of architecture ?

We travelled to Barcelona to attend the WAF from 2 till 4th of November 2011.
The result is this blog of WAF 2011 which will follow after this brief introduction and please give your comment on the blog.

Misak Terzibasiyan Emile van Vugt


2 november

The first day starts with a theme which is topical in Japan. Three speakers start with certain statements about the themes: Ken Tadashi Oshima (Associate Professor of Washington University), Akihiko Hamada (Senior Executive Officer and head of the International Design of Nikken Sekkei)and Sou Fujimoto (Sou Fujimoto Architects) Ken Tadashi Oshima moderates the debate.

On the left Sou Fuijmoto and on the right Ken Tadashi Oshima

The difference between the two offices is remarkable. Akihiko Hamada shows a great infrastructural project, designed by his own office. This project has survived the tsunami and earth quakes in Japan and it is still standing without losing its functionality. Sou Fuijmoto starts his story in a different way, by starting to tell that he was asked by Toyo Ito together with other thinkers and architects to think and reflect about the basic condition and needs of the people. He answers without any hesitation and you can ask yourself, if this doesn’t count for each architectural assignment : what is the fundamental part of the architecture and the meaning of the architecture?

After this inspirational words, the idea arises to listen to the presentation of Musashino Art University Museum Library. It is fascinating how an assignment of a library is translated into in innovative architecture. We will definitely hear and see more from Fuijmoto in the nearby future. He was lately also successful with the Taiwan Tower competition.

In the category of culture there is a winner who is social and simple in his materialisation and approach: SIMA KITCHEN of Architects Atelier Ryo Abe, also from Japan.

3 november

The day starts with the debate: “Rethinking and Use- time for change?”

There are two speakers: Koen Olthuis of Waterstudio and Sanjay Puri of Sanjay Puri Architects. This debate is given direction under the supervision of the inspiring architect, Roger Zogolvitch of Solid Space Developments. Comparison between these two speakers is almost impossible. Sanjay Puri approach is a humble attitude of architecture in service for the people to deliver affordable and safe dwellings for relative small amount money.


The difference with the approach and work of Waterstudio could not be greater. Sanjay thinks and acts from the view of people and Waterstudio starts his thinking from the floating capacity of the project. The plans shown by Waterstudio are experienced as a commercial water musical and are boring by repetition.

The question with which Sou Fuijmoto started at the the beginning of the WAF is also applicable and rumbles if we look and listen to the presentations: what is the fundamental part of the architecture and the meaning of the architecture?

Entries at the WAF 2011

We close the day with the view of almost 700 shown projects in different categories and qualities.

The diversity and the cultural impact of the different countries are clear. There are very few Dutch entries for this edition. In former years offices like Mecanoo, MVRDV, Neutelings Riedijk, RAU, UArchitects and UNstudio were selected for the short listed presentation with their realised work. The small amount of entries of Germany, Switzerland, Austria and France is also astonishing. The reason for this may be that the organisation is based in London and the selection of the jury is directed from this organisation.

4 november 2011

Remarkable winner of the WAF with light-minded building.

On Friday the office project Media-TIC in Barcelona, designed by Cloud 9, wins the first prize in the main category for realised work. It is remarkable in regard to the quality of the other finalists. In total there were 15 categories, represented by a winner of each category in the final of the WAF.

Cloud 9

The waving winner is Enric Ruiz-Geli

The plan of Cloud 9 doesn’t have a clear concept for the architectural design. In his presentation, Enric Ruiz-Geli of Cloud 9 used arguments regarding sustainability to build up his motivation regarding architecture. There is no clear answer to the question about the relation between the building and the context. While the column-free ground floor is the main reason for the huge steel portal construction on which the floors are depending.

The building has a technological appearance with a visible steel construction which dominates the overall impression together with the EFTE pillows at the front facade. The EFTE pillows can be filled with fog to prevent the warming up by the sun, but many visitors ask themself if this special effect is enough to leave the other finalist behind.

On a technological and climatological level, the Speedskating Stadion in Insell of Behnisch Architecten is a very inventive building with a full integration of installations , sustainability and architecture. In contradiction to the winning plan everything was designed to prevent fog curtains because this would slow down the speed of the skaters.

Speedskating stadion by Behnish Architecten

The extension of the Saint Nicolas Antiochan Orthodox Church in the USA of Marlon Blackwell Architect also seems a likely winner, even not only of the high architectural gesture but with a small amount of budget a steel hall is turned over to a special modest church. As well as in the building process and as well as in the result this social cohesion is strengthened. It will make the intelligent handling of the existing structure forms the driving force.

Saint Nicolas Antiochan Orthodox Church

The relation between the building and the social context seems to be the main theme in the projects this year. The social meaning of architecture is clearly recognisable in the Klimmendaal rehabilitation center of Koen van Velsen and especially the sympathetic solution of the Shima Kitchen, theatre of the Japanese office Atelier Ryo Abe mentioned as potential winners.

Presentation of Klimmendaal is not presented by Koen van Velzen

Although it is almost impossible to select a winner between all the plans ( variation of a modest house op to a master plan of Foster for Abu Dhabi) without defining some criteria, we wonder why a project for the homeland has won the World Building of the Year 2011.

Members of the jury were Michael Sorkin architect New York), Jo Noero (architect Kaapstad). Professor Kongjian Yu (teaching at Harvard and architect Turenscape, Beijing) and Tim Macfarlane (architect London).


Other winners are the Hanimaadaoo International Airport, Maldives, designed by Integrated Design Associates Limited (‘Future Project of the Year 2011’) and the Beekman Tower at 8 Spruce Street, New York, designed by architect Frank Gehry and engineer WSP Cantor Seinuk (‘Structural Project of the Year 2011’ ).

World Architecture Festival (WAF) is the world’s largest, live, truly inclusive and interactive global architectural awards programme. It is a unique meeting point for architects, suppliers and clients, attracting hundreds of entries and visitors from all over the world. The goal of the WAF is also to build up the This is fast becoming the largest library of international projects – every single entry to the WAF Awards is kept online for future reference.

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