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Alexa impact study beats world’s best buildings to win Designs of the Year

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A research project into the social and environmental impact of owning a voice-assistant device has won the 2019 Beazley Designs of the Year, awarded by the Design Museum 

Anatomy of an AI System by Kate Crawford and Vladan Joler created a visual diagram exploring the whole-life resources needed for an Amazon Echo (also known as Alexa) – from the effects of extracting rare earth metals and the wide disparity in workers’ income, to the data these devices can gather without the users’ knowledge.

The ‘map’, which also won the digital category, was chosen ahead of dozens of groundbreaking designs from around the globe, including buildings by 6a architects, Junya Ishigami and Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

Other nominations in the architecture category were Chris Hildrey’s proxy address system, which its UK architect creator hopes will help alleviate the problems faced by the homeless.

The building category was won by the Maya Somaiya Library in Kopargaon, India, designed by Sameep Padora and Associates.

Now into their 12th year, the Design Museum’s annual awards celebrate ‘the world’s best designs’. Previous winners including David Adjaye’s National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington and the London 2012 Olympic Torch. The 2018 prize was won by Turner-prize nominee Forensic Architecture for its exhibition Counter Investigations: Forensic Architecture which ran at the Institute of Contemporary Arts in London. 

The accolades are made up of nominees across six categories: architecture, digital, fashion, graphics, product and transport. 

Speaking about the overall winner, Paul Thompson, chair of the 2019 Judges and vice-chancellor, Royal College of Art said: ‘AI is such a prevailing feature of the future of technology it seemed the perfect moment to analyse its impact, which this project does. In the future, when you purchase a piece of digital hardware it could have the ingredients listed.

‘This project shows how this might look and makes everyone who sees it think about all the unseen impact of tech hardware. You will never look at your smart home hub the same way again.’

Beazley Designs of the Year 2019, Architecture finalists

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Architecture category winner Name: Maya Somaiya Library Designers: Sameep Padora and Associates

Source: Edmund Sumner

Architecture category winnerName: Maya Somaiya LibraryDesigners: Sameep Padora and Associates

  • [WINNER] Maya Somaiya Library by Sameep Padora and Associates
  • 110 Rooms by MAIO
  • A new roof for the ancient souk of Homs Designers by Ghassan Jansiz for United Nations Development Programme
  • A Room for Archaeologists and Kids by Studio Tom Emerson, ETH Zürich and Pontifical Catholic University of Peru
  • Art Biotop Water Garden by Junya Ishigami
  • Ca’n Terra by Ensamble Studio
  • Central Park, Taichung by Philippe Rahm architectes, mosbach paysagistes and Ricky Liu & Associates
  • Latraac Skate Cafe in Athens by Zachos Varfis
  • Miami College Garage (pictured below) by Amale Andraos and Dan Wood (WORKac)
  • MK Gallery by 6a architects
  • Opalis by Rotor and the Architectural Association
  • ProxyAddress by Hildrey Studio
  • Punchbowl Mosque by Angelo Candalepas and Candalepas Associates
  • Research into Public Money for Public Goods by Dr Louise Carver/Department for Food and Rural Affairs
  • The Shed by Diller Scofidio + Renfro
  • The Songyang Story by DnA_Design and Architecture

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Previous Designs of the Year winners

  • 2018: Counter Investigations Exhibition by Forensic Architecture
  • 2017 David Adjaye OBE for the National Museum of African American History and Culture in Washington D.C
  • 2016 Better Shelter by Johan Karlsson, Dennis Kanter, Christian Gustafsson, John van Leer, Tim de Haas, Nicolò Barlera, the IKEA Foundation and UNHCR
  • 2015 Human Organs-on-Chips by Donald Ingber and Dan Dongeun Huh at Harvard University’s Wyss Institute
  • 2014 Heydar Aliyev Center by Zaha Hadid Architects
  • 2013 GOV.UK – UK Government website by GDS
  • 2012 London 2012 Olympic Torch by Edward Barber and Jay Osgerby
  • 2011 Plumen 001 by Samuel Wilkinson and Hulger
  • 2010 Folding Plug by Min-Kyu Choi
  • 2009 Barack Obama Poster by Shepard Fairey
  • 2008 One Laptop Per Child by Yves Béhar 
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