Surprising architectural works deserve international prizes



Works of architecture can be as amazing and surprising as any other form of art. The attentive and sensitive observer can be delighted by the observation of skyscrapers standing out clearly against the sky or small houses where brilliant architects have managed to make a clever use of space. The attention of the acute observer may be catched by buidings made of innovative materials or having strange shapes – like the upside-down houses that make observers stand open-mouthed.

Many international prizes commend the excellence of architectural works.

The Pritzker Architecture Prize, the Nobel for Architecture, honours living architects who have given an artistic added value to their works. The prize was founded in 1979 by Jay and Cindy Pritzker who aimed at encouraging architects’ creativity and at enhancing the awareness of public towards buildings; indeed, there are three words inscribed on the prize: Firmness, Commodity and Delight. In 2009, the prize has been conferred to the esteemed Swiss architect Peter Zumthor for its excellent achievements.

The European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – or Mies van der Rohe Award – was founded by the European Commission and the European Parliament with the Fundació Mies Van der Rohe of Barcelona. It is granted every two years and rewards architects for their quality architectural products. The 2009 prize has been awarded to Shøhetta for the Opera House in Oslo.

The International Award Architecture in Stone is promoted by Veronafiere. It was established in 1987. It has grown to one of the most prestigious acknowledgements in the international architectural panorama. It aims at promoting the communication between architects and entrepreneurs working in the marble and stone industry, in order to foster a use of lithic materials in line with building rules and innovation.

In the 2009 edition, a distinguished jury of historians, university architecture lecturers and critics has rewarded a group of Japanese architects – the Asian Architecture Friendship group – for their school in Nepal that has been built using slate and river cobble; Fermín Vásquez who has used basalt and calcareous stone to restore Plaza del Torico in Teurel, in Spain; and the team of Cino Zucchi for the rehabilitation of the offices of the former Alfa Romeo canteen in Portello area, in Milan. A special acknowledgement has gone to the enlargement of the seat of Bocconi University and to the Oslo Opera House. The group Espigueiros and Horreos has received the Vernacular Architecture Award for the restoration of some stone barns in Portugal  and Spain.

The AR Awards for Emerging Architecture, whose ceremony takes place every year at the Royal Institute of British Architecture in London, is a prestigious awards programme addressed to young architects from all over the world. All architects aged 45 or younger and recognised by their local accreditation organisation are eligible to enter into the competition. Completed buildings – both new build and refurbished houses, offices, schools, commercial or industrial premises – interiors, urban design projects, bridges, theatres, product designs or street furnitures are all admitted.

Prizes are also granted to unbuilt or incomplete projects. The MIPIM Architectural Review Future Projects Award was founded in 2002. It focuses strongly on creativity and aims at giving a great exposure to examples of fine architecture.

Architecture is both an art and a science. Architectural works are both cultural symbols and works of art that excite the admiration of observers.

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