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Clear winners in Du Pont's award - at UIA's fiftieth


Du Pont presented its Benedictus Awards for innovation in the use of glass last week during a 50th anniversary event for the uia which attracted the cream of the world's architects.

The company presented its commercial award to Paris-based Ibos-Vitart Architects for renovation of the Lille Fine Arts Museum. Judge Sarah Topelson de Grinberg praised the way its innovation created a 'tremendous attraction to visit the museum' as a 'new language in an old centre'. She said, 'People try to figure out what magic happened there.'.

The residential award went to Austrian practice Architekturstudio for the conversion and extension of the Sailer House in Salzburg, a light construction of laminated free-standing glass, supported by glass. Student winners were Cheung Pui Kwan, Choy Kei Shun and Woo Wing Tat from the University of Hong Kong for their design for a courthouse.

The awards took place against the backdrop of a round-table discussion, on architecture in the age of globalisation, among big names such as Mario Botta, Charles Correa, Dominique Perrault, Harry Seidler and Josep Martorell.

Criticising d&b and 'turnkey solutions', Seidler said that mankind thrived on cultural 'peak' achievements like the 'masterpiece' of Gehry's Bilbao Guggenheim, but that too many people took short-cuts at the least possible expense.

Correa argued that architecture was not a 'moveable feast' and that it was important for architects only to build in countries which 'spoke to them'. Frank Lloyd Wright 'understood nothing about Japan', for example, but Le Corbusier built in Brazil and India where the energy and sunlight appealed. Architecture, he said, had roots and culture and 'when you spread yourself too thin, you are the loser'. For this reason, Correa said he was impressed with a programme at the architecture school in Aarhus, Denmark, where third-year students are sent to India 'to get sensitised'. They are asked to go to houses of Punjabi people for a month so they can learn the process of dealing with another culture. Still on education, Seidler said, 'We have lost faith in today and tomorrow so we regress and build as our great grandfathers did.' This is a 'pitiful' situation, which the us media is perpetuating. 'We shouldn't have people teach architecture who, on the whole, cannot find employment elsewhere.' Mexican architect Teodoro Gonzalez de Leon mourned that few people today knew how to draw, while Botta talked of a school he had founded on his ideal. 'A good school must be in the position to give problems, not find solutions,' he said.

There was also criticism of 'a kind of unionism which tries to keep new names, however famous, from being built', and what Botta likened to Formula One racing - the same names appearing on shortlists the world over. It was Seidler again who reminded the packed audience of a truly global problem - competitions where winning schemes are not guaranteed to be built. 'They get a vast array of man hours spent on the problem,' he said. 'It really is a racket and it's practised everywhere.'

The congress is to be held in Beijing next year, and in Berlin in 2000

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