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Water as a central element

Holcim Awards prizes for Latin America

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. The 6th cycle of the competition saw a double-prizewinning entry in Latin America: A project in Colombia won the Global Holcim Awards Silver as well as Gold at the regional level. 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 Latin America 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 Latin America competition region, many proposals dealt with water issues, land use, and the restoration and recovery of land. The regional jury, chaired by Loreta Castro Reguera (Mexico), selected projects in Colombia, Brazil, Ecuador, Mexico, and Argentina as the main winners. The authors of all these projects come from the same countries in which the projects are located, and they convinced the jury with their coherent concepts and bold approaches. One project was particularly prominent: The Gold-winning project for the Latin America region additionally won Silver in the Global Holcim Awards. The other Global Holcim Awards went to Switzerland (Gold), Morocco, Vietnam (ex aequo Bronze), Australia, Cabo Verde, Jordan, and the Philippines (Commendations).

A recurring focus on water

As Head of the Academic Committee of the Holcim Foundation, Marilyne Andersen was a member of all five regional juries and the global jury. The proverbial Latin American temperament also flavored the jury discussions: “The discussions on what matters for this region were emotional and intense,” she recounts. “What should be the priority? What should we address first? And what could the Awards help achieve?” Nevertheless, it quickly became clear which common denominators ran through the projects: “The focus lay on water issues, land use, and restoration and recovery of land.”

Water has been a recurring theme among the submissions in the Latin America region for more than a decade. Ways of improving housing for the poor is another typical focal theme in this region. New in this cycle was the focus on land restoration and land use. Anderson says the jury debated this “in very rich and full discussions." The jury ultimately decided on three Awards and four Acknowledgement prize winners. In addition to prize money totaling USD 360,000, 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.

A20LATgoCO-01.jpegSymbiosis between humans and nature in Bogotá, Colombia

Global Holcim Awards Silver and Holcim Awards Gold Latin America - Wetland Vitality

Wetlands are vital to our planet’s survival. They are sources of water, serve as waystations for migratory birds, and store a third of the world’s terrestrial carbon. This project aims to consolidate the Jaboque wetlands in Bogotá. The consolidation is achieved along a 5.5 km-long linear park that integrates recreational and natural areas and offers educational opportunities for the community. The landscape planning was used as an opportunity to create a live botanical collection. Plants were selected depending on their impact on the ecosystem and their potential to strengthen the wetland flora and fauna.

“The project embodies sustainable concepts through different approaches,” explains prizewinner Sebastian Mejía of Connatural, Medellín, Colombia. “It recovers the ancestral relationship between humans and their territory. Also, it aims to establish a symbiotic relationship between wetlands and urban development, assuring the preservation and the strengthening of this fundamental ecosystems for climate-change adaptation.” The Global Holcim Awards jury found that the project integrates a wise, sustainable, pluralistic, and participatory logic, aiming to repair a long-lost relationship between local communities and nature through wetland restoration. The level of detail of the landscape design as well as the quantity of information underpinning it demonstrates the maturity and quality of the proposal while supporting the feasibility of the intervention.

A20LATsiBR-01.jpgKnowledge transfer and social inclusion in Laranjal do Jari, Brazil

Holcim Awards Silver Latin America - Collective Harvest

This project proposes a new processing plant for locally collected nuts. The riverside site is in the village of São Francisco in the Amazon basin. The building design is the result of a long and inspiring collaborative process involving the community and the client. The building comprises a series of independent volumes housing the various programmatic functions. These volumes are united beneath a single, continuous wood-frame roof. Beyond satisfying the program, the design aims to provide adequate labor conditions for the workers and to supply the local community with productive, cultural, and economic opportunities.

“What’s particularly sustainable about our project is the way that we transform matter into architecture by delivering knowledge to the local community,” explains prizewinner Gustavo Utrabo of Estúdio Gustavo Utrabo, São Paulo, Brazil. “We live in a country that doesn’t understand the importance of conserving nature. With this project, I can share ways to help people in the rainforest improve their lives while treating nature respectfully.” The jury praised how the programmatic function of the building is solved through the elegant duality between light roofs and the massive walls to create volumes that accommodate the facilities necessary for Brazil nut processing. The engagement of the community during the design and construction process was also considered a remarkable contribution to social inclusion and knowledge transfer.

A20LATbrCO-01.jpegSustainable housing for farmers near Bogotá, Colombia

Holcim Awards Bronze Latin America - Vernacular Greenhouse

This project is a prototype for a combined residence/greenhouse for mountain farmers in Colombia. The vernacular approach to the design allows for high productivity, indoor comfort, and economy. Synergies between residential and agricultural functions are exploited, and space planning and material selections are optimized. The building consists of two parts: an inner wooden volume constituting the house and a translucent shell that functions as a second skin and as a greenhouse. The polycarbonate envelope enhances thermal performance and simultaneously enables a variety of produce to be grown despite the low temperatures at high altitudes.

“It’s a small-scale project that aims to solve large-scale social issues in the country,” says architect Carlos Betancourt of Espacio Colectivo Arquitectos SAS, Calí, Colombia. “In a post-conflict context, farmers need to return to the field in unprotected places. In the water-producing moorland, the project must become one with the environment.” The jury was fascinated by this smart and energy-efficient rural farmhouse concept for Colombian mountain farmers. They also appreciated the iconic and compelling geometry and the choice of construction materials and methods. The design proposes a sustainable and affordable way of living, mixing domestic and commercial uses and creating a new sense of belonging for the community.

A20LATacEC-02.jpegUsing available space in Quito, Ecuador

Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Latin America - Accommodating Above

Mastering the housing crisis in fast-growing cities is one of the most urgent challenges of urban planning and architecture. This project places housing modules on empty roofs in Quito – treating roof space as a strategic resource for urban densification. The concept of stacking upon existing buildings can help attenuate land speculation and urban sprawl. The jury applauded this project for how it questions the current consumer attitude to the manner of design for habitable spaces. “The optimum use of resources without compromising quality of life is paramount,” says prizewinner María Reinoso Guerrero of El Sindicato Arquitectura, Quito, Ecuador. “Living with only what you need and using neglected spaces above the existing infrastructure of our cities are very sustainable concepts.”

A20LATacMX-01.jpgSustainable campus in Canalejas, Mexico

Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Latin America - Creative Space

El Tepozán is a new campus designed for arts and crafts education. It provides a safe and creative environment where the citizens of Canalejas can meet, work, learn, and produce art. The architecture employs vernacular design strategies, which enhances the sustainability profile of the project. “We use local materials, vernacular knowledge, long-established construction methods, and traditional water-storage systems,” says Emmanuel Ramírez Ruiz of Estudio MMX, Mexico City, Mexico. “The building’s design is flexible enough to grow and transform in time, to be used and reused in many different ways.” The jury found the openness of the spaces well suited to the program – resulting in a high level of flexibility to best serve the community over the long term.

A20LATacARhousing-01.jpgSustainable urban densification in Córdoba, Argentina

Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Latin America - Housing Infill

Housing is lacking and land is expensive in most cities. This project in Cordoba addresses this problem through compact construction. Featuring a flexible design that allows change and adaptation, the proposal strives for sustainable urban densification. The design aims to consolidate and regenerate the urban fabric, achieve appropriate urban density, and take advantage of proximity to urban centers. “Adequate urban housing prototypes are a key to sustainable urban development because every building contributes to the design of the city,” says architect Tomás Quaglia from Córdoba, Argentina. The jury was thoroughly convinced by the sustainable features of the project, which make the design quite revolutionary for Argentina. The bioclimatic strategies used in the building are skillfully implemented and the use of wood is considered audacious but attractive.

A20LATacARpark-01.jpegZoo redesign in Mendoza, Argentina

Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Latin America - Park Evolution

How should zoos be designed and used? A zoo in Mendoza drew heavy criticism and was forced to close in 2019. This project takes that site, completely reconceives it, and transforms it into a place where nature and people can reconnect in harmony. The forms, materials, and characteristics of the entire site will be adapted to merge with the natural landscape. The jury appreciated the proposed adaptive reuse of a former zoo building as a multifunctional educational and recreational facility. The landscaping is intentionally “under-designed,” and the boundaries between human space and wilderness are blurred to accentuate how nature can reclaim its place and reconnect with people. “It’s a public space built in an entirely sustainable way,” says prizewinner Guillermo Lesch of lesch.alfaro, Buenos Aires, Argentina.

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 Latin America 2020

For the first time in the history of the Holcim Awards, the projects submitted in Latin America were discussed and evaluated by the jury online. The independent, international jury of experts was chaired by Loreta Castro Reguera, Design Director & Founder of Taller Capital and Professor of Architecture at the National Autonomous University of Mexico. The jury included professionals from across the region and from the Holcim Innovation Center: Sandra Barclay (Barclay & Crousse Architecture, Peru), Edelio Bermejo (Holcim Innovation Center, France), Luis Callejas (Luis Callejas & Charlotte Hansson Landscape & Architecture, Colombia), Fernando Diez (Universidad de Palermo, Argentina), Maria Betânia de Oliveira (School of Architecture & Urbanism, Federal University of Rio de Janeiro, Brazil), and Cecilia Puga (Cecilia Puga Architects, Chile). Further jury members from the Holcim Foundation Academic Committee were Marilyne Andersen (EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland) and Harry Gugger (EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland).

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 Latin America

Global Holcim Awards Silver (USD 100,00) and Holcim Awards Gold Latin America (USD 100,000)
Wetland Vitality in Bogotá, Colombia
A landscape design project for environmental recovery and social sustainability.
Winners: Sébastian Mejía, Edgar Mazo and team, Connatural, Medellín, Colombia

Holcim Awards Silver Latin America (USD 50,000)
Collective Harvest in Laranjal do Jari, Brazil
A community-engaged nut-processing facility in the Amazon basin.
Winner: Gustavo Utrabo, Estúdio Gustavo Utrabo, São Paulo, Brazil

Holcim Awards Bronze Latin America (USD 30,000)
Vernacular Greenhouse near Bogotá, Colombia
An energy-efficient farmhouse design for mountain farmers.
Winners: Carlos Betancourt, Aldo Hurtado and team, Espacio Colectivo Arquitectos SAS, Calí, Colombia; Sebastian Contreras and team, Estacion Espacial Arquitectos, Barichara, Colombia

Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Latin America (USD 20,000)
Accommodating Above in Quito, Ecuador
A project for minimalist urban housing units.
Winners: María Reinoso Guerrero, Francisco Duque Salazar and Jaime Viteri Hidalgo, El Sindicato Arquitectura, Quito, Ecuador

Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Latin America (USD 20,000)
Creative Space in Canalejas, Mexico
An arts complex for youth recreation and development.
Winners: Jorge Arvizu Soto, Diego Ricalde Recchia, Emmanuel Ramírez Ruiz and Ignacio del Río Francos, Estudio MMX, Mexico City

Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Latin America (USD 20,000)
Housing Infill in Córdoba, Argentina
A project for regenerative and flexible urban densification.
Winners: Agustin Berzero, Valeria Jaros, Emilia Darricades, Tomás Quaglia and Maximiliano Torchio, Córdoba, Argentina

Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Latin America (USD 20,000)
Park Evolution in Mendoza, Argentina
A nature regeneration project at a former zoo in Mendoza.
Winners: Leticia Alfaro and Guillermo Lesch, lesch.alfaro, Buenos Aires, Argentina

Last Updated: November 13, 2021
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