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Rogers and Herzog & de Meuron share top prize at Royal Academy

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Herzog & De Meuron and Richard Rogers have shared the £10,000 prize for the most outstanding work of architecture at this year’s Royal Academy of Art summer exhibition

The judges, led by the curator of this year’s architecture space Farshid Moussavi, split the award between a drawing of mechanical ductwork at Herzog & De Meuron’s Elbphilharmonie Hamburg –  a project criticised for its cost and time overruns – and Rogers’ plan for Geneva airport.

For the first time, the architecture room which sits within the Piccadilly institution’s wider summer show, focused on construction co-ordination drawings.

Bahadir Kayan, a judge and the chairman of Turkishceramics which has again sponsored the prizes,  said: ’We are delighted to present the ‘Turkishceramics Grand Award for Architecture’ for the third time in three years.

’Moussavi’s call for construction co-ordination drawings brought together an outstanding show that unveils the unseen beyond models and images. Congratulations to Rogers and Herzog de Meuron, who got to share the prize this year, for their outstanding submissions.’

Meanwhile the £5,000 Arup Architecture Award for Emerging Talent went to Japanese architect Yuji Tanabe who won the accolade for a ‘restrained’ drawing of an apartment in the Chiba Prefecture district of Tsudanuma.

Nigel Tonks, Arup’s group leader buildings London, said: ‘Among the entries from young and emerging practices, Tanabe’s restrained drawing for Flower Apartment speaks closely to the curator’s aim of architecture as an instruction-based art.

‘This elegant piece works as a drawing and a model, depicting boundaries and scale in an engaging way. Tanabe’s approach to layering information authentically conveys a feeling of space in this simple apartment building”.


Comment: Rob Wilson, the AJ’s architecture editor and a judge of this year’s architecture room

What a luxury of having to judge a roomful of fine drawings. But given that Farshid Moussavi’s original curatorial ask of contributors to this year’s show, was for ‘construction co-ordination’ drawings – not models or sketches but nor, as she was keen to point out, just straight construction drawings either ­– we decided to take this focus as the key criteria by which to judge them. They needed to be drawings that communicate the process of construction and design – not the exact method of screw fixing – and underline the role of the architect in co-ordinating the vast amount of information and input which coheres into the fabrication and realisation of any finished building. But the winning drawing also needed to represent this beautifully; as an object on the wall that still had the ‘wow’ factor of the tour-de-force capriccio drawing.

This balance between communication and beauty is exemplified by the very fine Richard Rogers ink drawing – which jointly won the TurkishCeramics Grand Award for Architecture – of the Geneva airport. Delicately coloured-up, its packed-in detail to one side contrasts with the finely rendered, spiderlike rendition of a moving crane-like form to the other, a stuttering Futurist freezeframe across the paper, nicely echoing Rogers’ own roots in 1960s Archigram mechanics.

Herzog & de Meuron’s floor plan of the Elbphilharmonie Hamburg, the other joint winner, is a much more literal rendition of the layering of information on the computer screen. The mechanical plant above the hall is picked out in colour-coding like seemingly random bumper cars spread above the seating, obscuring but rhythmically overlaying the seating below. This reveals the parallel networks and orderings of service voids and plant that wrap around us increasingly today, supporting our own lived spaces below.

For the Arup prize for Emerging Talent in Architecture, the drawing by Yuji Tanabe of the floor plan of the Flower Apartment, is not one that immediately jumps off the wall – appearing from afar as a soft more painterly abstract study in greys and ochres – but it really rewards detailed study. Showing a delicate layering of information and codings, it looks almost as if traced in an incredibly finely printed digital print, laid on a plasticised paper, wrapping around its frame like contemporary vellum.

It’s good to see that in a world flooded with the dead-hand of CGI representation, architects’ obsession with the fine line of beauty still holds good.


 Read a review of this year’s show here

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