Archiprix 2017 at CEPT

Reflections on the eventful week with the jury members and the director of Archiprix International
by Naksha Satish
7 October 2016

Left to right: Jury members Yttje Feddes, Frida Escobedo, Bimal Patel (President, CEPT University), Marina Tabassum, Steven Smith and Henk van der Veen (Director, Archiprix International)

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This week indeed was an insightful learning session, as the students gathered to listen the erudite and scholarly jury members coming from various parts of the world. The Archiprix international is happening at CEPT University! The Archiprix International is a biennial competition for the best student graduate projects from universities across the world in the fields of architecture, urban design and landscape rfgggggggggggggggggggggggg

architecture, and this time the competition is at our doorstep! CEPT University is the partner and is hosting the Archiprix 2017 edition. The last week was the Jury week to select the best 7 projects that would be announced during the event in February 2017. Every evening, students gathered to listen, discuss and celebrate the discourses in architecture. 

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The first evening presentations were by the Dutch landscape architect Ytjje Feddes and the British urbanist Steven Smith. While Ytjj

Yttje Feddes is a leading Dutch architect and the founder of Feddes/Olthof Landscape Architects based in Utrecht and deals with interface of engineering and landscape architecture. She was appointed as the Dutch Governmental Advisor on landscape in 2008 for a 4 year period. She is a visiting faculty at the Amsterdam and Rotterdam Academy of Architecture. 

Steven Smith, an architect and urbanist has worked on a diverse range of steven smith pSteven Smith, an architect and urbanist has worked on a diverse range of projects in Europe, Asia and Australia. He is the director of Urban Narrative, a design consultancy based in London with a focus on the reinvention of organisations and cities using a creative narrative approach.

The first evening presentations were by the Dutch landscape architect Yttje Feddes and the British urbanist Steven Smith. While Yttje highlighted the sensitivities of dealing with a delicate landscape while using the tool of construction, Steven weaved his narrative about the life of buildings and how certain architectural gestures could rejuvenate public spaces.

“It is important to be sensitive and have a vision while dealing with the technical structures like a damn in order to create architecture that is celebrated by everyone – Human beings, fish and water!”, says Yttje. The Master plan of Afsluitdijk is one such project that is not just a ‘connection dike’ but also accommodates programs for recreation, ecology and energy. It is a design where the technical requirements and the spatial necessities together transform the reinforced dike to a new artwork. She not only envisioned an idea for the entire dam, but also sensitively articulated the aesthetic of these mechanical structures at the human scale.

“Life is beautiful! However, the certain fate of all architecture is ruin.” As Steven Smith took this vehement stance, he compared the life of a building to that of a man as Shakespeare describes in ‘All the world’s a stage’.

Extending his narratives to the scale of the city, he explained his idea of an axis with the most rapidly changing systems at one end and the slower changing systems at the other. The axis is divided into two groups. The Ephemeral City, at one end of the axis, includes all the rapidly changing systems while those that change more slowly are collected together as the Material City at the other.

“Public spaces and architecture provide locations and scenery around the live encounters of people, exhibits and performances and are successful only if they support and amplify the drama”

said he, as he spoke of the Southbank Centre project where he has, through his narratives tried to transform the infrastructure to consolidate and increase the creative influence of the art foundation.

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The first evening presentations were by the Dutch landscape architect Ytjje Feddes and the British urbanist Steven Smith. .

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While

YFrida Escobedo is the principal and founder of an architecture and design studio in Mexico City. She has taught at the Graduate School of Architecture, Planning and Preservation at Columbia University and at the Graduate School of Design, Harvard University

Steven Smith, an architect and urbanist has worked on a diverse range of steven smith p.

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Marina Tabassum is the principal and founder of Marina Tabassum Architects (MTA) based in Dhaka. She is the Academic Director of Bengal Institute for Architecture, Landscape and Settlements and has taught at BRAC University, University of Asia Pacfic and UTA Texas.

The second evening, students were taken for a ride by the two bold women – Young Mexican architect Frida Escebedos and the seasoned Marina Tabassum from Bangladesh. While both of them dealt with the places of public interest, their approaches were very different.

Frida enthusiastically shared her projects in Mexico and other cities. Her ideas of public places is seen in the way she transformed the former home and studio of painter David Alfaro Siqueiros into a public gallery (La Tallera) and encased the entire complex behind a triangulated concrete lattice. By just rotating two murals converts an obsolete building to a lively public plaza.

“It’s a different attitude. In Mexico, it’s a constant struggle for small independent practices to make their way. It is only commitment and engaging with the surroundings through your projects that would take you forward” 

Escobedo continued to share her experiences of public architecture by showing how the creation of the Civic Stage for Lisbon Architecture Triennale: a pivoted circular stage placed in the Praça da Figueira changed the idea of public artefacts that enliven plazas.

Marina spoke of her context of Bangladesh where she works with the old bricks in new ways: to make interesting façades, houses and even a mosque was entirely made out of bricks. The Bait Ur Rouf Mosque project, for which she was recently awarded the Aga Khan Award, expresses her idea of building,

“It’s the spirituality that emerges from quality of light, ventilation and atmosphere that makes a mosque – not merely the outer form, domes and minarets. They are not just places of worship, but important social gathering places for people that form the essential elements of the city”

The third evening, was then for the students to generate a discussion. There were four student presentations that highlighted the role of competitions as a catalyst in the student – professional transitions of our lives. Srinivas Narayan spoke of his experiences of being an author of a competition project against his encounters on working as a contributor to the larger team of RPBW. Niharika Sanyal urged how the WHY of a project is so important and how ideas that one’s projects uphold are the ones that take you to larger opportunities. Another team of students shared their learnings from the Design Resilience in Asia Competition, Singapore.

A discussion emerging from these presentations culminated in larger concerns of how an academic environment mounds certain projects and the role of universities and schools in nurturing fresh ideas.

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aaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaa Henk van der Veen is a T.U.Delft graduate, who initiated Archiprix in the Netherlands in 1979. He set up Archiprix Netherlands as a platform for talented graduates in the field of Architecture to give them the exposure that matches their creative talents. In the 80-ies and 90-ies Archiprix Netherlands started to attract European graduate projects, swiftly followed by an interest of students all over the world, becomin – Archiprix International. The fields also expanded with Urban Design and Landscape Architecture.

The fourth day threw light on various aspects of designing and organizing such large scale competitions. Max Rink spoke of his experiences in designing exhibitions and Jigna Desai and Inigo informed about the theme and ideas for the workshops during the event in February. They introduced the global theme of the workshops -‘Making Habitat’. Taking a transverse section of the Ahmedabad city, they introduced the venues for the workshops that will be held during the month of February.

The last day was indeed a wonderful climax to the exciting and thought provoking events of the week. The jury members shared their observations about the 380 international entries. There were certain patterns across the projects according to their geographical location. While the ones in Austria generally deal with the problems of the global south and engage actively through interaction with such situations, the ones is Chile are mostly dealing with agricultural schools for local community. The students of South Africa have been exploring formal housing models and the Japanese Americans propose designs for their home towns. There was a unanimous appreciation of the quality of representations, ideas and efforts by the students. Despite the digital revolution, a lot of hand drawn illustrations were used in many entries.

“Funnily, A large number of students are actively addressing issues of social concerns, dynamics and other burning issues in their surrounding geographic region”,

says Henk, the director of Archiprix International. As he highlighted that students as responsible citizens deal with the concerns bothering the world. However, there were also a few who dived into their world of imagination and proposed futuristic concepts. Building with livings trees, using 3D printing technology in construction were few mind boggling ideas.
Archiprix invites the best graduate projects not with an agenda to check the standards but as a platform that gives room for the talents to surface and understand the rampant trends and ideas budding in various parts of the world.

Hence, there was no global judging criterion that was given to the jury. Each project could be observed with respect to its own merit, its field of interest and scope of discussion. It was not just the credit of the idea, but also its spatial articulation in terms of architectural elements that was looked at. What is the quality of the space? Are the idea and intensions of the designer communicated through this expression? Is it consistent in itself? When asked about the entries in the light of profession of architecture which is now getting highly proliferated into specialised fields and collaborative practices, Henk said

“In reality, architect or a designer is a team player, but in school you are on your own. Schools should thus incorporate this opportunity of team building capacities of students despite the individual evaluation of the growth and learning of the students”

Having observed the scenario in various countries, he talks of the act of building as being subject to various contingencies of greedy developer clientele, money and political pressures.

“There is some confusion! It might be different in different countries but the position of architect is under pressure. And the education must promote values of good design to thrive through the real world! What can be done to put the quality of good design back on the table?”

From questioning the role of academics, competitions, the surrounding built environment to challenging the role of the architect, I’m sure, these series of events have left the students thinking!