Holcim Awards 2023: Round-up in Venice with the jury chairs

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Holcim Awards 2023: Round-up in Venice with the jury chairs
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Holcim Awards 2023: Round-up in Venice with the jury chairs

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Holcim Awards 2023: Round-up in Venice with the jury chairs
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This year’s competition is now over. Out of 2,380 registrants from 114 countries, 20 entries stood above the rest. So what were the big takeaways? Who showed the most ambition? The five jury chairs are here to tell.

Since 2003, the Holcim Awards has been describing cycle after cycle what sustainability means, where and to whom. It has become a global snapshot of sustainable design and construction, albeit a bottom-up perspective of priority and circumstance.

Winners of the 2023 cycle were announced at a ceremony held on 18 November in Venice, Italy. Each of the five geographical regions in the competition had four finalists who went on to win gold, silver, bronze or the acknowledgement prize.

Episode outline

00:02:12 Manit Rastogi
00:06:15 “A lot of the problems of density and population in the Asia Pacific region – and especially countries like India and China and Indonesia and others – is the issue of migration: people moving from rural areas to city centres […] cities are economic generators […] which causes of course great pressure on the city, pressures on affordable housing, rental housing, issues of sanitation… all of that.”
00:11:09 Belinda Tato
00:15:10 “We have a huge built heritage in Europe. There’s a number of buildings that are not utilised or they’re deprived or they’re forgotten or they’re abandoned — or they’re in use, but they’re not in very good condition. So, for me, the question that I have for Europe myself is like […] ‘How can we work with existing buildings and existing energy embedded in these buildings?’”
00:18:20 Lesley Lokko
00:23:05 “I’m slightly more sceptical of the narrative that positions Africa as always having less […] And so, for me, it’s not so much making ‘do’, it’s making in a different way… and that’s a long-term conversation and it has huge ramifications for the way that we think about resources […] Africa is often positioned as the continent that has the least. I am in favour of a conversation that sees that differently.”
00:27:15 Craig Dykers
00:33:31 “…I think one of the things that is complex for the West to grapple with […] is the ability to shift our understanding of comfort. We all want more: we want nicer sweaters, we want nicer homes, we want more places that we can be inside […] How many times have you been walking in the street and it rains just a little bit — tiny bit of rain — and everyone freaks out. They all run inside…”
00:35:53 Tatiana Bilbao
00:42:12 “…there are still a lot of communities really fighting for really holding to their local knowledge […] because a lot of them have realised that this is a very — not only sustainable way — economical way of doing a lot.”
00:45:41 Words of advice
00:47:58 “…Think outside the box. I think there’s often an assumption that […] you’re entering into a discourse that’s closed and fixed and your job is to somehow match the expectations or the standards or the levels elsewhere. Actually, no… We’re in charge of our own narratives now.”

Summary

Offering a peek behind the curtains, the jury chairs reveal the judging process, the deliberations that took place to reach the list of finalists. This was not easy, even within a given region.

And so, the jurors used the prism of ‘ambition’ in addition to ‘outcome’ — i.e. how do the entries shed light on needs and concerns on the ground. In the summation, there were also questions about what was missing from the entries, which issues were overlooked and why.

The jury chairs of each region in this year’s competition were (left to right): Manit Rastogi (Asia Pacific), Belinda Tato (Europe), Lesley Lokko (Middle East and Africa), Craig Dykers (North America) and Tatiana Bilbao (Latin America).
© Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

Manit Rastogi, chairing Asia Pacific, underscored the challenges faced by poorer nations: clean air, water, sanitation, density and migration. In a region with rich economies like Singapore and Australia, there are others like India and Indonesia. The four finalists reflected the dichotomy of developed and developing.

Fujian Tulou (China) was the Gold winner for Asia-Pacific. It is a conserved traditional typology — the Tulou — which is repurposed to reinvigorate the local economy, thereby reducing the need to migrate to the city.
© Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction
Ger Plug-In 3.0 (Ulanbataar, Mongolia) was the Silver winner for the Asia-Pacific region. It offers a framework for upgrading rural settlements by combining the ger — a traditional felt tent — with a modern extension.
© Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

Belinda Tato, leading the European jury, detected trends towards urban retrofits and the use of timber as a material of choice to reduce the embodied carbon of a development.

El 17. Composition of Knowledge House (Madrid, Spain) was the Gold winner in Europe. It rehabilitates an industrial building into a vibrant community hub built with hybrid construction methods that include timber.
© Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction
Urban Nature Project (London, UK) was the Silver winner for the European territory. This project transforms spaces around the Natural History Museum into biodiversity nodes with potential for research and public learning.
© Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

Like Manit, Lesley Lokko, jury chair for the Middle East and Africa, contrasted projects in rich economies like the United Arab Emirates against poorer countries in Africa, such as Ghana. Three of the four finalists were from the African continent. Their submissions demonstrated how to do more with less in an imaginative, socially conscious way.

Surf Ghana Collective (Busua, Ghana) was the Gold winner for Middle East and Africa. This is a simple building that facilitates youth engagement and revitalises a neighbourhood by placing a tourism co-operative along the beach.
© Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

Craig Dykers, jury chair for North America, reflected on the region at large and noted that sustainability had become an exercise in incrementalism. The strong US economy has allowed the design-construction sector to proceed more slowlythan it has in Canada or Europe. In contrast to the status quo, three of the four finalists showed how to move faster and act more holistically.

One North America project was an exception to the rule: the Muscowpetung Powwow Arbour in Saskatchewan, Canada, which exemplified a symbiotic relationship between humans and nature, including the elements.
© Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

Tatiana Bilbao, chair of the Latin America jury, observed a bottom-up, collaborative approach in the region, wherein the architect is much more a mediator than an author. The finalists also showcased traditional construction materials and methods, which local communities were more comfortable with.

San José de Nueva Venecia School (Sitio Neuvo, Colombia) won the Silver winner in Latin America. It is a refurbishment project that expands and renovates a school made with locally sourced timber for flexible community use.
© Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction
The recipients of the Holcim Awards 2023 were in Venice to receive their prizes and share a total prize pool of US 1 million.
© Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

In the past, the Holcim Awards have been a triennial event. Moving forward, the competition will be held every two years. The next call-for-entries are likely to start in late 2024 and the next awards handed out in 2025.

In the wrap-up of this episode, each of the five jury chairs talks about what they hope to see in the coming cycle. Even though the entries were inspiring and filled with optimism, there are issues yet to be considered, such as density in Asia or affordable housing in Europe.

To find out more about this year’s winners and stay abreast of what’s coming from the Holcim Foundation, go to holcimfoundation.org.

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Episode Notes

Keep reading if you want to deep dive into this interview’s content and get more out of it. You can also find out more about this episode’s guest/s and sponsor/s, and the team that put it all together.

This episode is brought to you by:

The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The Holcim Foundation helps drive systemic change towards a more sustainable built environment. It was founded in 2003 to define and promote the key principles of sustainability for the construction sector and is committed to accelerating the sector’s transformation so that people and the planet can thrive.

The Foundation has investigated various aspects of sustainable construction via a series of roundtables and conferences with international experts. It has also recognised excellent contributions to this field with the Holcim Awards which are considered the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design.

Committed to a holistic approach that recognises the equal importance and interdependence of four key goals, the Foundation combines the collective knowledge, ideas, and solutions of our global community of experts with a recognised platform of international competitions to democratise thought leadership for the entire sector.

W  |  holcimfoundation.org

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  YouTube  |  Instagram

This episode is brought to you by:

The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction

The Holcim Foundation helps drive systemic change towards a more sustainable built environment. It was founded in 2003 to define and promote the key principles of sustainability for the construction sector and is committed to accelerating the sector’s transformation so that people and the planet can thrive.

The Foundation has investigated various aspects of sustainable construction via a series of roundtables and conferences with international experts. It has also recognised excellent contributions to this field with the Holcim Awards which are considered the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design.

Committed to a holistic approach that recognises the equal importance and interdependence of four key goals, the Foundation combines the collective knowledge, ideas, and solutions of our global community of experts with a recognised platform of international competitions to democratise thought leadership for the entire sector.

W  |  holcimfoundation.org

Facebook  |  Twitter  |  LinkedIn  |  YouTube  |  Instagram

As mentioned in this episode

If you heard it in this episode, we likely have a link for it right here. Click on any topics, people, buildings, places, products and/or technologies listed below to learn more about each of them.

00:07:54 “…The vernacular solutions to living are incredibly interesting…”
Yurt / Ger Mongolia” | Architecture-in-Development (A–D)
00:12:06 “…There was zero-emission buildings…”
Energy performance of buildings: towards climate neutrality by 2050” | European Parliament: News
00:16:07 “…This idea of the urban mining…”
WHAT IS URBAN MINING?” | Holcim
00:30:10 “…in how you examine carbon footprint…”
carbon footprint” | Britannica
00:30:56 “…Then there was Moscopetung Powwow Arbour…”
powwow” | Britannica
00:31:20 “…most of what we might call western society or colonial society…”
Colonial Society” | Encyclopedia.com
00:33:13 “…who are from tribal First Nations…”
How Native Tribes Are Taking the Lead on Planning for Climate Change” | Yale Environment 360

There are no people and organisations mentioned in this episode.

00:12:48 “…The Natural History Museum, London Project was an interesting way of using urban space…”
Urban Nature Project in the United Kingdom” | Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction
00:12:59 “…The one from Madrid was an adaptive reuse project…”
El 17. Composition of Knowledge House in Spain” | Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction
00:20:26 “…what it’s like to build in Nigeria…”
Nigeria” | Britannica
00:20:30 “…who was building in Morocco or building in Istanbul…”
Morocco” | Britannica
00:20:30 “…who was building in Morocco or building in Istanbul…”
Istanbul” | Britannica
00:21:05 “…that’s coming up in, let’s say, Dubai or Sharjah or the UAE…”
Dubai” (United Arab Emirates) | Britannica
00:21:05 “…that’s coming up in, let’s say, Dubai or Sharjah or the UAE…”
Sharjah” (United Arab Emirates) | Britannica
00:21:05 “…that’s coming up in, let’s say, Dubai or Sharjah or the UAE…”
UAE” (United Arab Emirates) | Britannica
00:28:44 “…or along the Great Lakes…”
Great Lakes” | Britannica
00:30:40 “…the projects from Toronto, Seattle and Bellingham…”
Toronto” (Ontario, Canada) | Britannica
00:30:40 “…the projects from Toronto, Seattle and Bellingham…”
Seattle” (Washington, United States) | Britannica
00:30:40 “…the projects from Toronto, Seattle and Bellingham…”
Bellingham” (Washington, United States) | Britannica
00:31:10 “…in terms of the powwow arbour in Saskatchewan…”
Saskatchewan” (Canada) | Britannica
00:38:09 “…done by the neighbours of a block in Antioquia…”
Antioquia Department” (Columbia) | Wikipedia
00:38:15 “…versus a university building in Quito…”
Quito” (Ecuador) | Britannica
00:42:34 “…they got the price in Venice…”
Venice” (Venezia, Italy) | Britannica

There are no design features mentioned in this episode.

There are no products or technologies mentioned in this episode.

Host
Nirmal Kishnani

Producer
Maxime Flores

Managing editor
Kruti Choksi Kothari

Communications executive
Sana Gupta

Creative director
Alexander Melck | Phlogiston

Sound technician and editor
Kelvin Brown | Phlogiston

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