The built environment has a significant role to play in addressing climate change and enabling the transition to a net-zero and more inclusive future. The Holcim Awards for Sustainable Construction global winners showcase the cutting edge of approaches to sustainable design, green architecture, and materials innovation. In the 6th cycle, a project from Switzerland won the Gold Award at both the regional and global levels. The global prizes were presented at a handover ceremony at the International Architecture Biennale in Venice, Italy. The regional Holcim Awards Main category winners for Europe were recognized at the same event.
The Holcim Awards winning projects from five world regions are recognized at regional prize handover events. All winning projects at the regional level automatically qualify for the Global Holcim Awards, in which the submissions are evaluated again by a global jury, which was chaired by Hashim Sarkis (Lebanon/USA) in 2021. Participants can submit additional material on their projects, including detailed information on the carbon footprint of their project over its entire life cycle and the project's contribution to the circular economy. The entries that the jury considers outstanding at the global level are then awarded prizes at a global handover ceremony. Due to the pandemic, this procedure was adapted: all regional and global prizewinners were invited to the International Architecture Biennale in Venice, where they received their prizes at a single handover ceremony.
Toward net-zero emissions and circular material flows
The issue of sustainability is of paramount importance in construction. In view of climate change and diminishing resources, new approaches are needed along the entire value chain of the construction industry as the building sector moves toward net-zero emissions and circular material flows. Developing and applying these new approaches are what the Holcim Awards promote. The prize money of the world’s most significant competition for sustainable design totals USD 2 million.
The number of competition entries shows how intensively specialists in the fields of architecture, engineering, urban planning, materials science, construction technology, and related disciplines deal with sustainability issues: A total of 4,742 projects from 134 countries were submitted in the 6th cycle of the competition. About half of them fully met the requirements and were then scrutinized in extensive online jury meetings in the five regions around the world. The juries spent a total of over 100 hours sifting through and ranking the winners in the Main and Next Generation categories. Around half of the entries worldwide were submitted in the Next Generation category, which seeks bold ideas and visionary concepts by participants up to 30 years of age. The 21 winning projects in this category were announced in virtual ceremonies earlier this year: www.holcimfoundation.org/awards/6th-cycle.
In the Main category, the Holcim Awards recognize projects that are nearing implementation at an advanced stage of design. In the Europe competition region, many proposals dealt with combining technical and political aspects into a sustainable whole. The focus of the projects submitted was chiefly on materiality and building aspects. The regional jury, chaired by Jeannette Kuo (Switzerland), selected projects in Switzerland, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Sweden, Germany, Austria, and France as the main winners. The authors of these projects generally come from the countries in which their projects are located – except for one from the USA – and they convinced the jury with their coherent concepts and bold approaches. As a particularly exceptional example of sustainable architecture, the Gold-winning project in the Europe region went on to win Gold again in the global competition for the Global Holcim Awards. The other Global Holcim Awards went to Colombia (Silver), Morocco, Vietnam (Bronze ex aequo), Australia, Cabo Verde, Jordan, and the Philippines (Commendations).
Great diversity of projects
As Head of the Academic Committee of the Holcim Foundation, Marilyne Andersen was a member of all five regional juries and the global jury. She knows how difficult it can be to compare completely different projects: “The European jury saw a lot of diversity; the region is quite large,” she explains. Nevertheless, certain commonalities became apparent: “Ultimately, most of the projects we discussed dealt with materials, reuse, upcycling, and recycling.” In the previous competition cycles, the entries mainly focused on urban transformation, prefabrication, housing, and carbon emissions, “but given that the existing building stock is overwhelming and that something should be done about it, it’s not surprising that this time projects were about construction per se and about renovation,” says Marilyne Andersen.
The jury ultimately decided on three Awards and four Acknowledgement prize winners. In addition to prize money totaling USD 410,000, the winners received a personalized trophy featuring the Holcim Foundation’s iconic icosahedron, which symbolizes the golden ratio and therefore ideal proportions. The trophy base is made of EvopacZero, a climate-neutral concrete by Holcim Switzerland, exemplifying materials that enable circular flows and sustainable construction. Holcim is the sponsor of the Holcim Foundation, which conducts the competition.
Making new from old in Winterthur, Switzerland
Global Holcim Awards Gold and Holcim Awards Gold Europe - Extending the Cycle
It’s common practice to demolish old buildings to make room for new ones. This project redefines the starting point of the design process by treating demolition as an opportunity to source construction materials. An industrial building is preserved, repurposed, and expanded by 3 stories to house 12 residential units. The additional stories are built using materials reclaimed from demolition sites. The design process started with the collection of salvaged building elements and materials. The materials were then cataloged, and their potential for reuse was determined. This process encompassed everything from staircases to aluminum windows and photovoltaic panels.
“The project as such does not make a big impact in the world of architecture,” says prizewinner Barbara Buser of baubüro in situ, Basel, Switzerland, “but it’s the way of thinking about architecture, about construction, about participation that will have to change all over the world because we’re running into extinction if we continue the way we are.” The Global Holcim Awards jury highly commended this project for the disruptive construction methodology it proposes to achieve carbon-neutral buildings and enable circular-economy models in the field of design and construction. The project demonstrates how much potential exists – and is lost – in buildings that are torn down, to the extent that dismantled elements are reused as components for new construction.
Reconstruction in Prijedor, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Holcim Awards Silver Europe - Restoring Common Ground
This project aims to mend the divide between two communities in Bosnia and Herzegovina. The site is located between the ethnically disparate villages of Petrov Gai and Kevljani, in the former war zone. The war-damaged building on the site is being transformed into a vibrant public facility for cultural and reconciliation activities. The new construction will be in rammed earth with minimal additional structure in reinforced concrete. The facility will house an art studio, a versatile theatre, a crafts workshop, and a home for up to 14 people. The project is conceived to be financially self-sufficient within three years.
“Our project is set in the deeply divided postwar society of Bosnia-Herzegovina,” explains prizewinner Vernes Causevic of Project V Architecture, London, United Kingdom. “We’ve developed a holistic, participatory architectural process working closely with the local community to restore common ground in the area. This involves reinventing shared building traditions.” The ambition of the project to bridge ethnic diversities and achieve respectful coexistence has high social value, says the jury. On the one hand, the building provides new stimulating cultural spaces to support the young generations living in the region, and on the other, its construction becomes a learning and educational experience for the locals who thereby gain new social and working skills.
Wooden cultural center in Skellefteå, Sweden
Holcim Awards Bronze Europe - Towering Virtuoso
This project is a mixed-use cultural center that includes a hotel, six theater stages, a public library, two art galleries, an auditorium, restaurants, and a spa. The facility is conceived to become the new “living room” of the city where everyone should feel welcome. The building is framed in glue-laminated timber, with a minimal use of prefabricated concrete structural elements. Engineered wood framing offers easy prefabrication, low emissions from material processing and transport, and carbon sequestering throughout the life of the building. Prefabrication is a key aspect of the concept, simultaneously supporting local business and enabling a more precise and efficient construction process.
“The timber structure drastically reduces the carbon footprint,” says architect Oskar Norelius of White arkitekter, Stockholm, Sweden. “To realize this project in timber we’ve had to develop innovations such as the modular hotel rooms. These new solutions can now be applied in future projects.” The jury was particularly fascinated by the innovative timber construction techniques deployed to achieve this beautiful and sustainable architectural project, which showcases the potential of working primarily with timber. The fact that all the building structural elements are made of wood, including the structural core and elevator shaft, makes this tower quite unique in its genre.
Holistic factory design in Hamburg, Germany
Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Europe - Data Propelled
How can factories be designed not just for technical and economic performance but equally to meet environmental goals while providing optimal working conditions? This project offers a model that tackles that challenge. The proposed facility was developed using a data-driven approach and a participatory design process. The jury commended the thorough and unconventional design approach that is central to the project, supported by a convincing scientific methodology which takes into account a range of technical and operational aspects. “This approach combines the best of human creativity and the best of machine computation,” says prizewinner David Benjamin of The Living, New York, USA. “We incorporated measurable sustainability goals and we also incorporated measurable social goals, financial goals, and production goals.”
Rethinking retail in Vienna, Austria
Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Europe - Integrated Big Box
New retail buildings are usually built outside of city centers, hence the proliferation of suburban malls and strip shopping centers. Countering this trend is the first full-size IKEA store in a city center – in Vienna. The building is conceived as lean and flexible infrastructure, easily adaptable to future changes. “You have to make a building that will be loved for many decades,” says prizewinner Jakob Dunkl of querkraft architekten, Vienna, Austria. “It’s flexible, so it will stay for a long time. This is sustainable.” The jury commended the flexibility and adaptability resulting from the carefully designed building systems, promising long-term durability well beyond the initial use.
Waste management in Bordeaux, France
Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Europe - Resource Circulation
France is committed to ambitious environmental goals. Within that scenario, this project aims to turn urban waste into a valuable resource for the city of Bordeaux. A recycling park will be created in a vast natural area to the northwest of the city. The proposed development incorporates not only the technical infrastructure for waste management but also landscape rehabilitation and design. “The project seeks to bridge certain disconnects between the local and the global, between high-tech and low-tech,” explains author Chamss Oulkadi of BOM architecture, Paris, France, “especially in those very specific spaces between the historic city center and the suburban, more-natural surroundings.” The jury was impressed by the multifaceted approach of the design, spanning the regional, infrastructural, and architectural scales as an independent system.
Restoration in Siewiller, France
Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Europe - Rural Catalyst
The program for this project calls for transforming an abandoned farm into senior residences. The new facility should not only provide housing for the elderly but create a new community center to enrich social life in the small village of Siewiller. The architectural language harmonizes with the historic fabric of the village. The four old farm buildings were rehabilitated and expanded without destroying their original character. The appropriate revitalization and sustainable development of small towns is a contemporary challenge for architects and urban planners, says the jury. Social sustainability implies strengthening a place through its community and local identity. “We are reusing existing buildings in order to conserve material resources,” explains main author Florent Revel of N01 architecture, Strasbourg, France. “The project is building a new future based on a very common and ordinary heritage.”
Prizewinning projects and author teams online
The winning projects and authors in the Holcim Awards Main category were honored at a hybrid event at the International Architecture Biennale in Venice on 13 November 2021: the 33 regional winners 2020 as well as the eight winners of Global Holcim Awards prizes 2021 were announced. A film of the handover ceremony and virtual presentations of all winning projects, including detailed descriptions, videos, jury reports, and statements by the authors as well as numerous illustrations, are available at www.holcimfoundation.org/awards. In addition, the latest book of the Holcim Foundation features in-depth interviews with the prizewinning authors: www.holcimfoundation.org/publications.
The Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction was created in 2003 by Holcim as an independent legal entity to raise awareness of the important role that architecture, engineering, urban planning, and the building industry have in achieving a sustainable future. The Holcim Group is a global leader in innovative and sustainable building solutions and enables greener cities, smarter infrastructure, and improved living standards around the world. The company is driving the circular economy as a world leader in recycling in order to build more with less.
Members of the Holcim Awards jury Europe 2020
For the first time in the history of the Holcim Awards, the projects submitted in Europe were discussed and evaluated by the jury online. The independent, international jury of experts was chaired by Jeannette Kuo, architect and founding partner of Karamuk Kuo Architects. The jury included professionals from across the region: Nuno Brandão Costa (Brandão Costa Arquitectos, Portugal), Eva Pfannes (Ooze Architects, The Netherlands), Alexandre Theriot (BRUTHER, Switzerland/France), Kristiaan Borret (Chief Architect, Brussels-Capital Region, Belgium), Hélène Lombois-Burger (R&D Project Manager for Digital Design & Fabrication, Holcim Innovation Center, France), and Sergei Tchoban (SPEECH architectural office, Russia). Further jury members from the Holcim Foundation Academic Committee were Marilyne Andersen (EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland) and Dirk Hebel (Karlsruhe Institute of Technology, Germany).
Members of the Global Holcim Awards jury 2021
The independent jury that evaluated the projects at the global level was chaired by Hashim Sarkis (Dean of the School of Architecture & Planning, Massachusetts Institute of Technology, Cambridge, MA, USA). The jury included Angelo Bucci (spbr arquitetos and Professor of Building Design, Universidade de São Paulo, Brazil), Bruce Gibbons (Thornton Tomasetti, USA), Anne Lacaton (Lacaton & Vassal Architectes, France), and Mun Summ Wong (WOHA, Singapore). Marilyne Andersen (Professor of Sustainable Construction Technologies, EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland), Maria Atkinson AM (Green Building Council of Australia), Meisa Batayneh Maani (Maisam Architects & Engineers, Jordan), and Brinda Somaya (Somaya & Kalappa Consultants, India) represented the Board and the Academic Committee of the Foundation as additional jury members.
Holcim Awards winning projects Europe
Global Holcim Awards Gold (USD 150,000) & Holcim Awards Gold Europe (USD 100,000)
Extending the Cycle in Winterthur, Switzerland
A building addition constructed primarily of salvaged materials.
Winners: Marc Angst, Michèle Brand, Barbara Buser, Pascal Hentschel, Benjamin Poignon and Kerstin Müller, baubüro in situ, Basel, Switzerland
Holcim Awards Silver Europe (USD 50,000)
Restoring Common Ground in Prijedor, Bosnia & Herzegovina
A rehabilitation project creating space for peace-building activities.
Winners: Vernes Causevic, Project V Architecture, London, United Kingdom, and Kemal Pervanic, Most Mira, Kevljani, Bosnia & Herzegovina
Holcim Awards Bronze Europe (USD 30,000)
Towering Virtuoso in Skellefteå, Sweden
A new cultural center with a carbon-neutral profile.
Winners: Oskar Norelius and Robert Schmitz, White arkitekter, Stockholm, Sweden
Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Europe (USD 20,000)
Data Propelled in Hamburg, Germany
A data-driven design to achieve environmental and economic sustainability.
Winner: David Benjamin, The Living, New York, USA
Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Europe (USD 20,000)
Integrated Big Box in Vienna, Austria
A project promoting new sustainable design practices in the inner city of Vienna.
Winners: Jakob Dunkl, Carmen Hottinger and team, querkraft architekten, Vienna, Austria
Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Europe (USD 20,000)
Resource Circulation in Bordeaux, France
A visionary urban development project triggering new sustainable dynamics.
Winners: Teams of BOM, FUSO, and HAME architects, Paris, France
Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Europe (USD 20,000)
Rural Catalyst in Siewiller, France
A farmhouse conversion project to enhance social sustainability.
Winner: Florent Revel, N01 architecture, Strasbourg, France