The sixty-plus buildings and structures that have made The Royal Institute of British Architect’s (RIBA) longlist of best new projects all share two distinct qualities: the designs themselves are innovative and the final products are unlike anything the world has seen before.
The 2018 RIBA International Prize recognizes the best building that “exemplifies design excellence, architectural ambition and delivers meaningful social impact,” according to the RIBA International Prize’s website.
Blueprint, presented by CBRE, asked some of the nominees from around the world about the inspiration behind their transformative designs.
Audain Art Museum
Opening a major museum in the resort town of Whistler in Vancouver, British Columbia, offered architects John and Patricia Patkau of Patkau Architects the opportunity to create a structure that blended in with the Engelmann and Sitka spruce trees that surround it.
The Audain Art Museum, named in honor of art collector and philanthropist Michael Audain, does just that, setting the 56,129-square-foot museum right within Whistler’s natural beauty.
The design of the museum was shaped by three determinants: first, the permanent exhibition of Audain’s collection and temporary exhibits of art from around Canada and the world. The second was of the beautiful yet “challenging” Whistler environment and the site’s location within the floodplain of Fitzsimmons Creek. The final determinant was the challenge of building a museum in a ski town that averages 15 feet of accumulated snow depth each year.
The design succeeds by “projecting a volume of sequential public spaces and galleries into an existing linear void within the surrounding forest,” says Patkau Architects.
The mix of dark metal materials and wood casing in the gallery’s glazed walkway gives the interior a “luminous materiality,” while the restrained form and character of the museum creates a quiet, minimal backdrop to the art.
Patkau Architects says: “The simple form of the exterior is clad in an envelope of dark metal which recedes into the shadows of the original forest.”
Children’s Village Canuanã School
To design housing for the 540 students who attend the Canuanã School in Formoso do Araguaia, Brazil, architectural firms Rosenbaum and Aleph Zero approached their work by searching for a deeper meaning.
“How could architecture become relevant to this location marked by rural and indigenous memories, techniques, aesthetics and rhythms?” asks Gustavo Utrabo, co-founder of Aleph Zero.
The design had to do more than just serve as lodging for the students of the Canuanã school. It had to offer a sense of belonging and aid in the development of the children.
One of the aims of the design was to “demystify the status of the school as the only learning space and transform it into a territory with a home value,” says Utrabo.
Aleph Zero created a new residence in two new “villages,” one reserved for male students and the other for female students. Large dormitory spaces were transformed into 45 smaller units of six students each.
“With this act of reducing the number of students per room, we aim to improve the quality of life for the children, their individuality and consequently their academic performance,” says Utrabo.
Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology
History’s greatest explorers, like Vasco de Gama and Ferdinand Magellan once embarked on their lengthy voyages from the banks of the River Tagus, or Rio Tejo, in Lisbon, Portugal. In designing MAAT, the new Museum of Art, Architecture and Technology in Lisbon, architect Amanda Levete of AL_A, a London-based architecture studio, worked to honor this relationship with the river and the wider world.
The project was commissioned by EDP, one of the largest electricity operators in Europe, and its EDP Foundation, a large sponsor of the arts in Portugal. The building serves as a centerpiece of the EDP Foundation’s plans to transform a stretch of land that includes the repurposed Central Tejo power station, into a sprawling art campus. The focus of this new contemporary art and cultural space was to “embody the Foundation and campus philosophy of seeking to move beyond the boundaries of the museum, with the creation of significant public spaces that are free and open to all audiences and all ages,” says Levete.
The building houses four exhibition spaces beneath a “gracefully undulating roof.” The structure itself blends naturally into the landscape by allowing people to “walk over, under and through the building that sits beneath a gently expressed arch,” says Levete.
In its first year since opening in 2016, the MAAT received over 500,000 visitors.
Structures of Landscape
The Structures of Landscape on the northern edge of Yellowstone Park, Montana, is a collection of striking sculptural installations that dot the sprawling Montana landscape with reinterpretations of geological transformations: sedimentation, erosion, weathering, crystallization, compaction and metamorphosis.
“They are structures of landscape because they are born from it and give it order, transforming matter into inhabitable space and unfolding a new constellation of programs among the plateaus, ridges, canyons and hills of brutal beauty that compose the site,” says Débora Mesa, principal of Ensamble Studio, the Spanish architectural firm that created three commissioned works for the project.
The structures themselves resonate with the immensity and roughness of the surrounding territory.
“They situate our actions in an ambiguous position between nature, architecture and art,” Mesa says.
“They can be one and all, or (they can be) a completely different category that only makes sense where it was born,” she adds.
When it came to designing the Museum Voorlinden in Wassenaar in the Netherlands, architecture studio Kraaijvanger wanted to make the expansive private art collection of Dutch businessman Joop van Caldenborgh the primary focus of the museum, beyond just the structure itself.
“The client had too many pieces to be shown in houses, offices and factories and had bought a sculpture by Richard Serra that by contract he had to (exhibit),” says Ronald Schlundt Bodien, a spokesperson for Kraaijvanger Architects.
The museum sits on nearly 100 acres in Wassenaar, bordered by flower gardens that have been designed by landscape architect Piet Oudolf.
The design of the museum’s exterior is deliberately subtle (“the building makes no attempt to impress,” as Kraijvaanger says on its website). To take advantage of the light found along the Dutch North Sea coast that falls indirectly into the museum, Kraaijvanger constructed 115,000 elliptical cylinders that were cut at an angle.
“The [end] of the cylinder is to just block direct sunshine at any moment of the year. This is the concept of ‘reflected southern light,’ as opposed to the classic northern light,” Bodien says.
The resulting effect is a unique experience for every visitor, where the daily variations in the color and strength of the filtered light changes every day.
The best building, which will be decided by a Grand Jury that includes architect Elizabeth Diller of Diller Scofido + Renfro and dance choreographer Wayne McGregor CBE, will be announced in December 2018.