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BIG founder named among new International Fellowships

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BIG’s Bjarke Ingels is among the nine architects to have been handed RIBA International Fellowships

The Danish-star is joined on the list by Italian architect Mario Cucinella, the USA’s Rick Joy and  Kees Christiaanse who started his own firm KCAP after working with Rem Koolhaas.

Also on the list are Brian MacKay-Lyons, co-founder of MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects based in Canada, Peter Märkli, founder of Swiss practice Studio Märkli, and Australian architects Peter Stutchbury.

While Spanish architects José Antonio Martínez Lapeña & Elias Torres have been recognized together.

The high-profile life honour – which allows recipients to add the initials Int FRIBA after their names – is awarded to non-UK architects who have made a significant contribution towards advancing architecture.

The architects will be presented with their fellowships at a special ceremony at the RIBA on 1 February 2016.

Kees Christiaanse, architect and urban planner, Netherlands

Nominated by Louisa Hutton

Kees Christiaanse is a Dutch architect and urban planner whose work personifies the complementary nature of these disciplines: his architecture is rooted in the city and his urban planning is very much design-based. In his role as artistic director of the Dutch Building Department - a post he held in the mid 90s - Christiaanse combined the two disciplines harmoniously, fostering the Dutch urban renaissance of the late 20th century.

Following nine years with the Office for Metropolitan Architecture, six of them as partner, in 1989 Christiaanse then founded his own office - KCAP Architects&Planners - in Rotterdam. The office has expanded to Zurich and Shanghai, and is currently forming a base in Singapore. KCAP has been involved with significant large-scale urban projects throughout Europe – including the Royal Docks (with Maccreanor Lavington), the post-Olympic Park in London, and the world-renowned HafenCity in Hamburg. He is now particularly active with university campuses and knowledge clusters, amongst other projects.

Throughout his career Christiaanse has fruitfully combined office practice with both teaching and research. From 1996 to 2003 he was a professor of architecture and urban planning at the Technical University of Berlin; currently he holds the Chair of the Institute for Urban Design at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology - or ETH - in Zürich. Since 2010 Christiaanse has been programme leader of the Future Cities Laboratory in Singapore, a research programme developed between the ETH and Singapore’s University of Technology and Design whose goal is to develop ways to approach sustainable urban futures for cities with an Asian perspective.

In his worldwide activities of lecturing, writing, and teaching and in his engagement with various complex urban assignments, Christiaanse campaigns for an understanding of the city as an open system, encouraging city governments - while aiming for high density, mixed-tenure and multi-centred solutions - to view urban planning as a three-dimensional, layered activity and to adopt structural frameworks that allow for change and incremental development.

It is for his profound thinking and creative, responsible work at the interface of architecture and urbanism, and his understanding of the synergies between design, knowledge, strategy and process management, that the RIBA is awarding Kees Christiaanse International Fellowship.

 Mario Cucinella, Italy

Nominated by Peter Clegg

The Italian architect Mario Cucinella decidedly ticks the sustainability box. The firm’s solid experience in architectural design is backed up by an emphasis placed on the importance of energy matters and environmental issues. The team also majors in urban regeneration, in industrial design and technological research. Through collaboration with universities and the research programmes of the European Commission these lessons are fed back into the practice.

Cucinella wins international competitions and awards for buildings all round the world. He first set up the practice in Paris in 1992, then started up the Bologna office in 1999, where he employs a team of architects and engineers from many countries.

Between 1998 and 2006 he taught at the Faculty of Architecture in Ferrara, Italy, and since 2004 he has been an Honorary Professor at the University of Nottingham. In 2013 he was Guest Professor in Emerging Technologies at the Technische Universitat in Munich, while in 2014 he was Guest Professor at Architectural Faculty Federico II, Naples. Cucinella regularly lectures in Italy and abroad. He is currently Director in the Scientific Committee of PLEA (Passive and Low Energy Architecture). He works as a tutor with Renzo Piano on the project G124 for the regeneration of Italy’s suburbs. In 2012 he also founded Building Green Future, a non-profit organization that brings together the two major strands of his thinking, promoting sustainable development through green architecture and urban regeneration.

Among the practice’s most significant projects are: The SIEEB - Sino-Italian Ecological and Energy Efficient Building - Tsinghua University, Beijing, China; the new Civic Offices of Bologna; the CSET - Centre for Sustainable Energy Technologies - The University of Nottingham, Ningbo, China; the new headquarters of 3M ITALY Milan; the project of Regional Agency for the Environment ARPA in Ferrara; a Kuwait School in Gaza, developed in partnership with UNRWA (The United Nations Relief and Works Agency for Palestine Refugees in the Near East)

The firm has won many national and international awards, in particular for its urban and its green projects. These include a Green Building Award at MIPIM for the building in Milan and a Premio Architettura prize for the masterplan for the rehabilitation of areas of Corso Martyrs of Liberty in Catania.

Bjarke Ingels, Denmark

Nominated by Stephen Hodder

Danish architect Bjarke Ingels’s practice BIG has come of age and is now working at a truly global scale. He is currently collaborating with the British designer Thomas Heatherwick on the massive Google campuses in California and London. His Danish Maritime Museum – a brilliant re-inhabitation of a dry dock in Helsingor and its surrounding dock walls, was among the five finalists for the 2015 Mies van der Rohe Prize for European Contemporary Architecture and won an RIBA European Award in 2014.

Bjarke’s youthful ambition was to be a cartoonist and he decided to study architecture at the Royal Academy in Copenhagen only to improve his drawing skills. Then the bug bit and by the end of his third year at the Technica Superior de Arquitectura in Barcelona he had set up his own practice and won his first competition. To gain more experience he went to work for Rem Koolhaas in 1999, returning in 2001 to set up PLOT together with another former OMA colleague Julien de Smedt.

Bjarke first came to national and international attention with PLOT’s playful designs for the Copenhagen Harbour Bath (2003) and Maritime Youth House (2004). A year later saw the completion of the first of three major housing projects in Ørestad on the outskirts of Copenhagen. The VM Houses (2005), apartments named for their V and M shaped plans, formed as such to allow for daylight, privacy and views; the Mountain (2007), terraced housing in which the parking forms the foundations of the building; and 8 House (2010), a large mixed-use housing development allowing people to bike all the way from the street up to its 10th level penthouses.

BIG is well known for pushing the boundaries of what is possible - many of the buildings defy traditional architectural conventions while achieving a balance between the playful and the practical, the sustainable and affordable. The results are invariably photogenic, hence their popularity with the public and the press.

Since 2009 BIG has grown in its international scope and acclaim with a New York office established in 2011. Key schemes include the Danish pavilion at EXPO 2010 in Shanghai, China; Superkilen Masterplan, Copenhagen, Denmark (2012); Gammel Hellerup Gymnasium, Copenhagen, Denmark (2013); Shenzhen Energy Mansion, China (in construction); the Faroe Islands Education Centre, Torshavn, (in construction); Amager Resource Centre, Copenhagen, Denmark (in construction) and VIA at West 57th Street, an 80,000 square metre mixed use block looking over the Hudson River (completion 2015). Recently BIG unveiled two high profile designs which will change the shape of Manhattan: The Two World Trade Center, a glass-clad tower, consisting of seven stacked cuboids occupying a plot at the 16-acre site in Lower Manhattan and The Dryline, a 10-mile long urban resilient system around Manhattan to protect residents from future climate events.

Bjarke has received numerous awards and honours, including the Danish Crown Prince’s Culture Prize in 2011, the Golden Lion at the Venice Biennale in 2004, and the Urban Land Institute (ULI) Award for Excellence in 2009. In 2011, the Wall Street Journal awarded Bjarke the Architectural Innovator of the Year Award and in 2012, the American Institute of Architects granted the 8 House its Honor Award.

Alongside his architectural practice, Bjarke has taught at Harvard University, Yale University, Columbia University, and Rice University and is an honorary professor at the Royal Academy of Arts, School of Architecture in Copenhagen. He is a frequent public speaker and has spoken in venues such as TED, WIRED, AMCHAM, 10 Downing Street, and the World Economic Forum.

Bjarke’s manifesto Yes Is More (2008) takes the form of a giant cartoon strip, 130 metres long, that reminds people to keep thinking big and is available in comic-book form. The work reminds us in many ways of Archigram but an astonishing amount of the ideas are built or being built. Much of that is down not just to advances in technology and construction techniques or even the greater ambition of clients, but to the drive and brilliance of the man himself.

Rick Joy, USA

Nominated by John Tuomey and David Adjaye 

Rick Joy is an Arizona-based architect, best known for an exquisite series of desert-based houses. His work is distinguished by an economic elegance of design, a close connection to site conditions and a refined sense of raw material in its construction. In 2002, Joy received the Award in Architecture from the American Academy of Arts and Letters.

An East-coaster by birth he studied music at the University of Maine before moving south west to study architecture at the University of Arizona. He graduated in 1990 but stayed put. His architectural career began with a three year job helping design Phoenix Public Library with Will Bruder Architects; and he then established Rick Joy Architects in Tucson, Arizona.

On first sight this work may seem simple, it may even evoke ideas of a calm and simpler life, but this kind of simplicity originates in a subtle and sublime sensibility. In 2008, Joy was chosen as one of the international architects to design the Pan-American Villa in Guadalajara, Mexico for 2011 Pan American Games, home to 8,500 athletes and delegates during the games. Sustainability was at the core of the building, which incorporated alternative energy strategies, water treatment and water recycling systems, as well as projects to protect flora and fauna in the area. According to Joy the building was strongly influenced by the traditional arches of the old buildings in the downtown of the city but with a slight twist. Rick Joy was the only non-Spanish speaking architect on the team that included Spaniard Carme Pinos and Chilean Mathias Klotz.

In the move away from the domestic he has cleverly converted the conceptual clarity of earlier private commissions to a more civic scale and purpose. This is evidenced by his master planning of new towns in Mexico and Utah; new master planning in York, Maine and Le Massif, Canada; a 1.3 million square foot mixed-use development in Tucson, Arizona, and most recently, the Princeton University Station store, restaurant and cafe projects. With this campus landmark pavilion building, huge concrete columns and an airy roof canopy open up a memorable social space and generate an appropriately urban sense of arrival.

Rick Joy is an architect’s architect, who started out in life as jazz drummer. He has a hands-on engagement with his work. He quietly attends to the culture of architecture through concentrated focus on essentials and an easy lightness of touch. His buildings belong in their place.

He has been visiting professor of architecture at the Harvard Graduate School of Design, Rice University, University of Arizona, and MIT. In 2002, Joy’s first monograph was published under the title Desert Works, as the first in the Princeton Architectural Press/Graham Foundation invited New Voices in Architecture series.

Brian Mackay-Lyons, Canada

Nominated by Stephen Hodder

The work of the Canadian architect Brian MacKay-Lyons is typified by his modern houses on the coast of his native Nova Scotia and his use of Atlantic Canadian vernacular materials and construction techniques. His work was always strongly influenced by the region’s maritime landscape.

Brian studied architecture at the Technical University of Nova Scotia (graduating 1978) and received his Master’s in Architecture and Urban Design from the University of California, Los Angeles. He also studied and worked in China, Japan and Italy. In 1983, Mackay-Lyons returned to Nova Scotia to at Dalhousie University, where he holds a full professorship in architecture. He founded his own practice in Halifax in 1985 and in 2005 this became Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects Ltd after he partnered with Talbot Sweetapple. He has also held numerous visiting academic positions at universities in the USA, Canada and Germany. He is a six-time winner of the Governor General’s Medal for architecture, fellow of the Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) and honorary fellow of the American Institute of Architects. In 2014 Mackay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects was recognized by the RAIC with the 2014 Firm Award. In 2015 he won the RAIC Gold Medal, which recognizes a significant and lasting contribution to Canadian architecture. The jury said, ‘His work is universally recognized as pure, dignified, poetic and beautiful. It comes from an intimate connection with his communities.’

Best known for his coastal houses, MacKay-Lyons has increasingly undertaken a number of larger public commissions since the late 1990s, including the Dalhousie Faculty of Computer Science (1999), Ship’s Company Theatre, Parrsboro, Nova Scotia (2004) and the Canadian High Commission in Dhaka, Bangladesh (2005).

His work has been featured in more than 330 publications, including six monographs: Seven Stories from a Village Architect (Design Quarterly , 1996); Brian MacKay-Lyons: Selected Works 1986-1997 (TUNS Press, 1998); Plain Modern: The Architecture of Brian MacKay-Lyons (Princeton Architectural Press, 2005); Ghost: Building an Architectural Vision (Princeton Architectural Press, 2008); Local Architecture: Building Place, Craft, and Community (Princeton Architectural Press, 2014); and the upcoming publication Economy as Ethic: The Work of MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects (Thames and Hudson, 2017).

Peter Maerkli, Switzerland

Nominated by Neil Gillespie

The Swiss architect Peter Märkli was nominated for RIBA International Fellowship in recognition of his work as a practising architect and also as Professor at the ETH in Zurich. Like his compatriot and contemporary, Peter Zumthor, Märkli has quietly accumulated widespread recognition and respect within the international architecture community to become one of the most significant Swiss architects of the late 20th and early 21st centuries.

Born 1953 in Zurich, Peter set up practice 1978. His first works were houses that immediately marked him out as a serious architectural mind. His breakthrough building was La Congiunta, the 1992 gallery in the canton of Ticino that houses the reliefs of the sculptor Hans Josephsohn. Since then projects have become larger and more complex, culminating in his Visitor Centre for Novartis Basel in 2006 and his internationally recognised offices, New Synthes, Solothurn of 2012. His unconventional approach, combined with his understanding of materials and colour, make him a unique figure in contemporary European architecture.

His is a very particular architecture, one that is extremely personal. It is not easily assimilated, it straddles boundaries of architecture and art, it questions notions of beauty. It is however firmly located in the landscape and mindscape of its author. It is wholly concerned with making. While much is made globally of the architect as personality or celebrity, Märkli’s work is marginal and all the more important for that. He causes us to reflect on the very nature of the discipline.

A 2014 exhibition by the Betts Project Architecture Gallery brought together the drawings of Peter Märkli and drawings by Peter Märkli from 1980 to 2013, and study reliefs by the artist Hans Josephsohn, collected by Märkli. In the exhibition text he states: ‘The important thing with these drawings is to work with elements or situations. They are for studying. Sometimes you have a lot of ideas but you have to wait until the point you need them. I built a building with the memory of a drawing of a façade, I think twenty years later because then the building and the situation and the landscape and all the things around needed this façade.’

In 2002 Märkli won the prestigious German architecture prize, established in 1963, the Heinrich Tessenow Medal  A monograph on his teaching at the ETH, Märkli Chair of Architecture at the ETH Zurich, 2002 – 2015 will be published by gta in December 2015.

The Fellowship recognizes the deep contribution Peter Märkli has made to the discipline of architecture.

Peter Stutchbury, Australia

Nominated by Niall McLaughlin

Peter Stutchbury is an Australian architect working just north east of Sydney. His home (a modest tent) and office are on the northern beaches and he is a younger member of a loose grouping that includes Glenn Murcutt and Richard Leplastrier. His work shares the same commitment to an environmentally sensitive building practice based on craft and a deep understanding of construction, particularly joinery and metalwork. He has spoken with great consistency about the rights and values of aboriginal people in Australia and his practice clearly acknowledges the influence of their sense of the earth.

Peter has been teaching at the school of architecture in Newcastle University for many years, but perhaps his most influential pedagogy has been based around the master classes that he shares with Leplastrier, Murcutt and Brit Andresen. His influence here is not insignificant - his drive, sociability and skill have allowed the other more reticent characters to shine through his expansiveness. He brings working architects out into nature and offers them an intense engagement with the natural world and with each other. It is an experience that few forget and an expanding group of designers around the world acknowledge the deep influence of his ideas and charismatic company.

Peter runs a small studio of eight or ten people and it is clear that he sets up intense collaborations with individuals within the practice, allowing him to extend his range while developing a lovely collegiate atmosphere in the studio. He sits at his desk quietly sketching in 3D freehand, every little turn and corner of the buildings. The suite of elegant builderly working drawings he has created over the years is an absolute pleasure to browse. His ability to articulate ideas through drawings of construction is a lesson to us all.

Peter’s key projects are a raw, rangy sheep shearing station in Wagga Wagga, an Olympic Archery Centre in Sydney, a Community Centre and Square in Sydney and an exquisite group of houses in New South Wales. His recent house for Issey Miyake in Japan has won him awards and plaudits internationally. In 2015 he was awarded the Australian Gold Medal for Architecture.

Peter Stutchbury was nominated because of his consummate skill as an architect, draughtsman and builder; because of his dedication to his native land and the rights and dignity of its people; because of his teaching and because of that mercurial ability that only a few architects have, which is the ability to create and sustain a milieu where many talents can thrive.

 Jose Antonio Martinez Lapena & Elias Torres, Spain

Nominated by John Tuomey

The partnership of Spanish architects José Antonio Martínez Lapeña and Elias Torres spans for almost half a century. They work in the way most successful partnerships do: as a balance of opposites. Elías is the joyous energized whirlwind, José Antonio is the quiet centre, holding things together, providing the core and anchor to the practice. The work of Martínez Lapeña and Torres has a particular sensibility at its heart that keeps it separate from the shifting vagaries of fashionable form.

Elias and José Antonio’s architecture is endlessly diverse. They cut a surprising and diagonal slice through a hillside to make a concrete cutaway staircase, a public passage connecting upper and lower parts of the town of Toledo. And made a giant solar-collecting social-gathering canopy to end the linear beach promenade of Barcelona. They have made a slung-structure sun-shady civic plaza among the old walls of Palma de Majorca. And they have designed beautiful houses and elegant housing schemes.

The specific list of projects that this team of architects led by Elias and José Antonio has undertaken, public as well as private, is vast, and many of them have been awarded with FAD architecture awards. There is the Villa Cecilia garden in Barcelona; the Móra d’Ebre hospital in Tarragona; the Villa Olímpica housing complex in Barcelona; the La Granja escalator in Toledo; the restoration of the Ronda promenade in the city walls of Palma de Mallorca; and the sensitive restoration of Gaudí’s Park Güell in Barcelona. Another of their outstanding projects was the Kumamoto Annex Museum in Japan, for which they received the Belca Prize in Tokyo in 1995. The Barcelona Fòrum esplanade with that photovoltaic power plant (2004) won the special award of the International Architecture Biennale in Venice. But they work just as effectively at the small scale: witness the Pal·li bus stop shelters in Barcelona; the Lampelunas streetlamp (which looks like an illuminated tree); and and the Plaza flower.

Royal Gold Medallist Rafael Moneo has written of the work of José Antonio and Elias: ‘Its virtues – sensibility, freshness, sharpness, clarity – can be felt in their early works and are maintained through to the most recent ones. When speaking about their work, therefore, one does not need to explore its evolution because, I would venture to say, there has been none. They have always tried to produce an architecture that is not enclosed within itself, that does not anxiously seek a new language, that does not exaggerate its dimensions… But an architecture that is, on the other hand, ready for the unexpected, for the epiphanic encounter with something that we did not know beforehand, but which we accept with delight because the architects make us understand its meaning.’

José Antonio Martínez Lapeña and Elias Torres are natural-born architects, they find the gap, discover new ways of looking for life in unlikely projects, and produce fresh possibilities in situations that others would not have seen. They are deeply-cultivated readers of architecture, logic-loving explorers of new ideas in architectural space, mavericks at work in the cultural continuity of city architecture.

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