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Empowering construction projects

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 three entries in the Middle East Africa region win prizes at both the global and regional levels, including a project in Morocco that won a Global Holcim Awards Bronze and two projects that were recognized with a Global Commendation. 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 Middle East Africa 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 Middle East Africa competition region, many entries had a local cultural basis and dealt with empowerment. The regional jury, chaired by Mariam Kamara (Niger) selected projects in Morocco, East Jerusalem, Yemen, Cabo Verde, Jordan, Iran, and Uganda as the main winners. The authors of these projects come from all parts of the Middle East Africa region – as well as one from the USA – and they convinced the jury with their coherent concepts and bold approaches. Three of the projects were also successful at the global level, one receiving a Global Holcim Awards Bronze and the other two a Commendation. The other Global Holcim Awards went to Switzerland (Gold), Colombia (Silver), Vietnam (ex aequo Bronze), Australia, and the Philippines (Commendations).

Location, location, location

As Head of the Academic Committee of the Holcim Foundation, Marilyne Andersen was a member of all five regional juries and the global jury. In this competition region, she was particularly struck by the strong focus on local issues: “The discussions were particularly interesting and enriching because there was such a deep contextual anchoring and knowledge about what matters in each subregion,” she explains. “We had a lot of discussions about priorities and about how we manage the empowerment for local people and workers and communities versus imported projects, which were not necessarily always considered beneficial.” In contrast to earlier competition cycles, in this cycle the aspects of culture and local action were emphasized.

“In previous cycles we were talking more about rural economy, migrations, and related issues,” recounts Andersen. Contextual and cultural anchoring is now at the core of what sustainability should be in this region. The jury ultimately decided on three Awards and four Acknowledgement prize winners. In addition to prize money totaling USD 310,000, 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.

A20MEAacMA-01.jpgSustainable oasis upgrade in M’hammid El Ghizlane, Morocco

Global Holcim Awards Bronze ex aequo and Holcim Awards Acknowledgement Prize Middle East Africa - Cultural Interlude

The global trend of urban migration goes hand in hand with exodus from nonurban areas. The oasis M’hammid El Ghizlane in the Drâa Valley in southern Morocco is losing its inhabitants, and along with them its heritage of tribal music, vernacular architecture, and agricultural basis. This project aims to help preserve local life and culture by creating a self-sustaining cultural center in the town of M’hammid El Ghizlane. It incorporates traditional construction with appropriate technologies such as solar chimneys and solar-powered geothermal systems along with passive systems like composting toilets and rainwater harvesting for both domestic and irrigation purposes.

“The project lies in the Sahara Desert at the fringe of an arid oasis acutely lacking water resources, so it has no choice but to be sustainable,” explains prizewinner Aziza Chaouni of Aziza Chaouni Projects, Fez, Morocco & Canada. “It needs to generate its own energy, collect its own water, and distribute it in a very efficient manner to make use of every single drop of water. And it’s in a climate that’s extremely hostile, so it needs to passively cool its spaces and offer thermal comfort during night and day.” The Global Holcim Awards jury recognized the laudable intention to address the issue of tribal-community displacement due to the threat of climate change by suggesting a design solution that enables people to remain rooted in their hometown and maintain their traditions.

A20MEAgoPS-01.jpegSustainable social hub in Kafr ‘Aqab, East Jerusalem

Holcim Awards Gold Middle East Africa - Growing Social Fabric

Kafr 'Aqab is a devastated neighborhood in East Jerusalem. This project is a collaborative effort between the local community and partnering institutions. It aims to create an environmental, social, and cultural hub for the local community. Because Kafr 'Aqab has suffered heavy environmental and physical destruction, an ecological approach was chosen. The project incorporates multiple green strategies like recycling, adaptive reuse, rainwater harvesting, graywater systems, and roof gardens. Local materials like limestone, sand, and crushed pottery, cleverly mixed with structural concrete elements, are being used in the reconstruction of the neighborhood.

“The project has a community-based approach through deep understanding of the old village’s life,” explains prizewinner Saja Mansour of RIWAQ Centre for Architectural Conservation, Ramallah, Palestine. “The design is based on oral history, and traditional know-how is used in the reconstruction and adaptive reuse of the historic buildings and sites.” The jury recognized this project as a gesture of significant global importance and a substantive contribution to architecture in a region that has suffered for years from poor planning and development inertia. They also highly appreciated the sensitivity and authenticity of the project in considering the opportunity it offers to salvage ancient customs and traditions through storytelling practices as a necessary step in a truly holistic restoration process.

A20MEAsiYE-01.jpegReconstructing religious centers in Al Mukalla, Yemen

Holcim Awards Silver Middle East Africa - Postwar Reconstruction

Yemen has been torn by civil war since 2015, which has caused vast destruction throughout the country. Many significant cultural sites have been severely damaged or entirely destroyed. This project aims to restore and rehabilitate some of the most important buildings. Nine landmarks are being reconstructed: three Sufi shrines, four mosques, and two domes. The project is being done with the support of the local authorities and the local community. Master masons and skilled artisans are leading the reconstruction work, using traditional building methods and materials, and training people on site.

“Our projects are sustainable due to the design and construction system, using natural resources and materials,” explains prizewinner Salma Samar Damluji of the Daw'an Mud Brick Architecture Foundation, Hadramut, Yemen. “The buildings interact in perfect balance with the environment.” The jury found that the project reaffirms the significance of inherited aesthetic forms that have a lasting impact on the quality of the built environment. The interventions are conducted with high cultural and environmental awareness, showing a sensitive and respectful approach toward places and their history. The jury applauded the project’s ambition to restore the integrity and social beliefs of a community through the rehabilitation of Yemeni historic sites rich with social, cultural, and spiritual values.

A20MEAbrCV-01.jpegCommunity rebuilding in Chã das Caldeiras, Cabo Verde

Holcim Awards Bronze Middle East Africa and Global Holcim Awards Commendation - Rebuilding Erupts

Chã das Caldeiras is a village situated in the volcanic crater of Pico do Fogo on the island of Fogo in Cabo Verde. Following a disastrous volcanic eruption in 2014, the government decided to create a masterplan for the sustainable rebuilding and redevelopment of the village. Within this plan is a design for an educational complex conceived as a catalyst for the reactivation of community life. It comprises seven small buildings surrounding a courtyard. The buildings are being erected by locals trained in specific construction methods. Besides reinforced-concrete structural elements, volcanic rock is the main construction material.

“The majority of the school is built with elements fabricated on site and produced by the people of the community,” says prizewinner Leão Lopes of M_EIA/Atelier Mar, São Vicente, Cabo Verde. “We are incorporating a rainwater-collection system because long, dry periods are very common here.” The jury highly commended the project’s top-down approach and its implications for the social and economic re-stabilization of the community. They praised the low-tech yet effective design and construction methods through which the architecture is tied to its context, its environment, and the people.  

A20MEAacJO-01.jpegClothing recycling in the Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan

Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Middle East Africa and Global Holcim Awards Commendation - Connective Threads

The world generates over 80 billion square meters of discarded or unused garments every year. Creating value by coupling that waste with the human potential of refugee camps is the idea behind this project. Modular tapestries are created that can be used to make refugee shelters for displaced Syrians. The jury appreciated the project’s support of cultural resilience of displaced communities through the promotion of cooperative-based practices. “Our project addresses problems of cultural infrastructure and refugee camps and mitigates the lack of opportunities of displaced people to access means of cultural resilience,” explains project author Azra Aksamija of the MIT Future Heritage Lab team, Cambridge, MA, USA. “The upcycling of discarded clothing demonstrates how the global textile industry could support the cultural resilience of displaced communities.”

A20MEAacIR-01.jpegRainwater harvesting in Bandar-e Kong, Iran

Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Middle East Africa - Inundation Harvest

Bandar-e Kong receives just 13 centimeters of rain a year – in downpours that cause heavy flooding in the city. At the same time, the city lacks urban green spaces and adequate agricultural infrastructure. This project aims to solve both of these problems by restoring an indigenous ecological system. “Our project also addresses the social issues of sustainability by preserving dying traditional ecological knowledge and integrating it into the urban planning and design processes,” explains prizewinner Ghazal Raheb of the Road, Housing & Urban Development Research Center, Tehran, Iran. The jury admired the multilayered narrative of the project which, through gentle infrastructural interventions, is able to provide a number of environmental, economic, and social benefits to the city of Bandar-e Kong.

A20MEAacUG-01.jpgHolistic transportation planning in Kampala, Uganda

Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Middle East Africa - Urban Movement

Extreme traffic congestion is a costly and dangerous fact of everyday life in downtown Kampala. This project envisions an upgraded multi-modal transportation network designed for safe, efficient, and cleaner mobility in Kampala. The concept incorporates elements of traffic engineering, landscaping, and urban design to significantly improve the quality of life in the city. “The project promotes cleaner streets and cleaner air in our streets and cities by reducing exhaust emissions,” says Joseph Kigozi of Prome Consultants, Kampala, Uganda. “It also provides spaces for social interaction and commercial activities.” The jury acknowledged the relevance of the project to its context in Uganda as well as many other African countries that suffer from similar problems caused by poorly organized and overloaded urban transportation infrastructure.

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 Middle East Africa 2020

For the first time in the history of the Holcim Awards, the projects submitted in Middle East Africa were discussed and evaluated by the jury online. The independent, international jury of experts was chaired by Mariam Kamara, principal of atelier masōmī in Niger. At her side were Zegeye Cherenet (Ethiopian Institute of Architecture, Building Construction & City Development, Ethiopia), Linna Choi (OUALALOU + CHOI, Morocco), Joana Dabaj (CatalyticAction, Lebanon), Mohsen Ech (Holcim Innovation Center, France), and Heinrich Wolff (Wolff Architects, South Africa). Further jury members from the LafargeHolcim Foundation Academic Committee were Marilyne Andersen (EPFL Lausanne, Switzerland), Guillaume Habert (ETH Zurich, Switzerland), and Elli Mosayebi (ETH Zurich, 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 Middle East Africa

Global Holcim Awards Bronze ex aequo and Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Middle East Africa
Cultural Interlude in M’hammid El Ghizlane, Morocco
A self-sustaining center to preserve tribal cultural heritage in an oasis community. 
Winner: Aziza Chaouni, Aziza Chaouni Projects, Fez, Morocco & Canada

Holcim Awards Gold Middle East Africa  
Growing Social Fabric in Kafr ‘Aqab, East Jerusalem
An environmental, social, and cultural hub in a devastated neighborhood.
Winners: Shatha Safi, Saja Mansour and team, RIWAQ Centre for Architectural Conservation, Ramallah, Palestine and Yara Bamieh, Ramallah, Palestine

Holcim Awards Silver Middle East Africa
Postwar Reconstruction in Al Mukalla, al Shihr, Yemen
A heritage-recovery project for community enhancement.
Winners: Salma Samar Damluji and team of the Daw'an Mud Brick Architecture Foundation, Hadramut, Yemen

Holcim Awards Bronze Middle East Africa and Global Holcim Awards Commendation
Rebuilding Erupts in Chã das Caldeiras, Cabo Verde
A post-disaster community-reactivation facility on the volcanic island.
Winners: Leão Lopes and team, M_EIA/Atelier Mar, São Vicente, Cabo Verde

Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Middle East Africa and Global Holcim Awards Commendation
Connective Threads in the Zaatari Refugee Camp, Jordan
Shelters for refugees in Jordan using upcycled textile waste.
Winners: Azra Aksamija and the MIT Future Heritage Lab team, Cambridge, MA, USA

Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Middle East Africa 
Inundation Harvest in Bandar-e Kong, Iran
A project for urban flood mitigation in Iran using ancient techniques.
Winners: Ashkan Rezvani-Naraghi (1983-2020) and team of the Road, Housing & Urban Development Research Center, Tehran, Iran

Holcim Awards Acknowledgement prize Middle East Africa 
Urban Movement in Kampala, Uganda
A multi-modal transportation plan for the city of Kampala.
Winners: Joseph Kigozi and team, Prome Consultants, Kampala, Uganda

Last Updated: November 13, 2021
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