Adaptation, in the sense of flexibility and resilience. How will architecture dialogue and keep up with the environment that is mutating so fast, due to climate change, demographic shifts and new lifestyles? How will projects follow this flux?
This is the issue at the heart of the 2023 edition of the Obel Award, the international architecture prize presented once a year by the Copenhagen-based Henrik Frode Obel Foundation. The focus on Adaptation, with its many facets, has been decided on as the core feature in selecting designs capable of tackling the contemporary world's challenges through eco-friendly and socially sustainable ideas and solutions. Challenges connected first and foremost with the shifts in the climate ‒ where architecture will soon be one of the primary sectors called on to play its part.
Planners and designers must in fact increasingly question the models and forms that have been in place so far, since these will no longer be effective in our future living contexts. Hence interiors, buildings and urban spaces will have to be ready for easy conversion to adapt to the world's changeability, which will be conditioning them time and again. Architecture tackling uncertainty and acting in harmony with nature. This is the meaning of the adaptation and resilience that the 2023 Obel Award is centering on. Its prize-giving ceremony will be held on the customary 21 October, birthday of Henrik Frode Obel, the Danish businessman who created the foundation before passing away in 2014.
The Obel Award recognizes sustainable projects that aim to benefit the common good, and that are capable of making a significant contribution to humanity and the environment. The prize is awarded to individuals or groups for works or projects of various types ‒ such as buildings, master plans or exhibitions ‒ that have been inaugurated in the last five years. The winner receives a sum to the value of €100,000, besides the opportunity to hold a masterclass open to the public as part of the Obel Award circuit.
Each year the jury presents a design theme and brings together a group of experts from all over the world to assess the projects taking part in the competition. Last year's theme pivoted on carbon-neutral projects, to highlight the role played by architecture in safeguarding the planet and architecture's responsibility in this sense towards future generations. The researchers Sam Draper and Barney Shanks won the 2022 Obel Award with Seratech, technology able to make zero-emission concrete starting out from the existing production processes.
Instead, the focus in 2021 was on the challenges faced by contemporary cities, with 'the 15-minute city' by Carlos Moreno as the winning project.
The 2023 Obel Award jury is chaired by Martha Schwartz (Founder of Martha Schwartz Partners, in the United States) and is made up of Kjetil Trædal Thorsen (Co-founder of the Snöhetta studio in Oslo), Louis Becker (Design Principal and Partner at Henning Larsen in Copenhagen), Wilhelm Vossenkuhl (Professor Emeritus of Philosophy in Germany), Xu Tiantian (Founding Principal of the DnA studio in Beijing), plus the two new additions Aric Chen (General and Artistic Director at the Nieuwe Instituut in Rotterdam) and Sumayya Vally (Founder and Principal of Counterspace in Johannesburg and London).
All images courtesy of Henrik Frode Obel Foundation