RIBA International Prize 2018: World's best new buildings revealed

Two schools, a university and a pair of tree-covered towers shortlisted for prestigious architecture award.

Posted: Sep 13, 2018 7:24 AM
Updated: Sep 13, 2018 7:45 AM

A Tokyo music school, a university in Budapest, a pair of tree-covered towers in Milan and a rural school in Brazil have all been shortlisted for one of architecture's most prestigious awards, it was announced today.

The four buildings will compete for the RIBA International Prize, a biennial award recognizing the best architecture from around the world.

When the prize's longlist of 62 similarly distinguished buildings was announced last December, the president of the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA), Ben Derbyshire, said that the selection demonstrated "the meaningful impact and transformative quality that well-designed buildings can have on communities wherever they are in the world."

This certainly applies to all four finalists. But it is perhaps best illustrated by Brazil's Children Village. Serving as a boarding school in Formoso do Araguaia, the building has put the remote Brazilian state of Tocantins firmly on the map of contemporary world architecture.

A school like no other

Tocantins, constituted in 1989, is not noted for its architecture. Yes, there are a few characterful colonial settlements, like Natividade, dating back to the 1730s, when gold prospectors made their way here with wagon loads of miners, missionaries and slaves.

But, for the most part, this tropical landscape, bounded by far horizons, remains the stuff of cattle ranching, grain production and the kind of small towns that look as if their single-story buildings have been ordered from budget DIY catalogues.

The Tocantins landscape, however, when not flat, red and almost Martian at times, is punctuated with great rivers, lakes, waterfalls, canyons, beaches and a wealth of flora and fauna. Slowly, adventurous tourists, mostly Brazilians, have been heading this way.

So, too, have members of the RIBA International Prize's jury, which is chaired by New York architect Elizabeth Diller, of Diller Scofidio + Renfro.

What they will have found is a school built of prefabricated, glue-laminated eucalyptus timber and local mud bricks, sheltered beneath spacious white metallic roofs that fend off tropical sun and rain. Clusters of small, well-crafted dormitories, each with its own sanitation, are set between courtyards, study spaces and play areas.

The result is a special building -- more a small town under capacious roofs -- that is at once rural, festive, generous and modern. The architects behind the project are Gustavo Utrabo and Pedro Duschenes, co-founders of Aleph Zero, in collaboration with the designer and Brazilian television host Marcelo Rosenbaum.

World-leading architecture

The judges have their work cut out, though. Their shortlist is indeed short, but the other three building projects on it are -- if very different from Children Village -- equally special.

On a formerly industrial fringe of Milan, Boeri Studio, led by the Milanese architect Stefano Boeri, has created a pair of remarkable high-rise apartment blocks named, for obvious reasons, Il Bosco Verticale (The Vertical Forest). From the steel reinforced balconies of the 110-meter and 76-meter-tall towers (361 and 249 feet respectively), an abundance of trees, shrubs and flowering plants grow from planters lined with waterproof membranes and polypropylene grids that keep roots in order (and damp at bay).

The many hundreds of trees chosen by Boeri, including holm oak, maple, beech, cherry and Persian ironwood, grow from different sides of the towers according to how they behave in sunlight or shade. The architect believes that, together, trees and foliage will reduce the need for air-conditioning within the apartments considerably, while encouraging an influx of birds and friendly insects.

Most importantly, his Vertical Forest brings nature to the city, while high-rise living reduces the need for the city to sprawl. It is to the credit of the developers, COIMA and Hines, that such an innovative project has been realized. Since the completion of the Milan towers, Boeri had begun work on a taller tower in Lausanne, Switzerland, that is planted with cedars, as well as the new Liuzhou Forest City in China.

Elsewhere on the shortlist is the Central European University, a bastion of liberalism sponsored by the Hungarian-American business magnate, author and philanthropist, George Soros. Devoted to the concept of an "Open Society," the institution yet be forced out of its home. Viktor Orbán's right-wing Hungarian government is very much opposed to Soros' thinking.

Even so, the embattled university, with 1,450 students drawn from 117 countries and teaching staff from 40 countries, has invested in an inspiring and highly crafted architectural project designed by the Dublin architecture firm O'Donnell + Tuomey. Here, new and old buildings are stitched seamlessly together through an atrium, across newly roofed over courtyards and up -- behind a fine limestone facade that fronts teaching and conference rooms, an auditorium and refined library -- to a roof garden with views across to the Danube. Working with local firm M-Teampannon, Sheila O'Donnell and John Tuomey have created a subtle, open-minded architectural adventure for post-graduate students of social sciences, humanities, law and public policy.

Completing the shortlist is Toho Gakuen School of Music in Chofu, Tokyo. The structure is something else again, a three-story concrete box divided into a wealth of rooms and spaces for budding musicians. The subtlety of its plan is something that the building explains slowly, yet surely, to users and visitors alike. Here is a world, part underground although naturally lit wherever possible, in which students -- who have played a key role in the design -- practice and perform in glass-fronted rooms of varying scales through which they can enjoy eye contact and visual communication with one another.

Architects from Nikken Sekkei, a 2,400-person-strong Tokyo practice founded in 1900, felt that too many music schools were prison-like rather than liberating. Here, in a modern building that is at once both formal and informal, a group of highly experienced Japanese architects have helped to frame, liberate and transform the training of young musicians.

The winner of the prize will be announced in November.

Indiana Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 69975

Reported Deaths: 3007
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Marion15152724
Lake7222273
Elkhart468079
Allen3695160
St. Joseph322479
Hamilton2572104
Vanderburgh180013
Hendricks1796105
Cass17609
Johnson1674118
Porter121339
Clark112646
Tippecanoe112311
Madison87265
LaPorte85029
Howard82965
Kosciusko82412
Marshall75222
Bartholomew74947
Floyd72945
Monroe69930
Delaware66552
Dubois65512
Boone64946
Noble63829
Hancock63438
Jackson5564
LaGrange54910
Warrick54030
Shelby53027
Vigo52810
Grant51129
Dearborn47728
Morgan44034
Clinton3883
Henry36519
White34910
Montgomery34321
Wayne33710
Lawrence33227
Decatur32232
Harrison30422
Miami2602
Scott25210
Daviess25119
Greene24034
Putnam2348
Franklin23113
DeKalb2224
Jasper2162
Jennings21412
Gibson2044
Steuben2033
Ripley1947
Perry17212
Starke1707
Orange16424
Fayette1637
Posey1610
Wabash1613
Jefferson1532
Carroll1522
Fulton1502
Whitley1496
Wells1442
Knox1400
Tipton1266
Huntington1193
Washington1171
Spencer1163
Newton11410
Randolph1094
Clay1025
Adams842
Sullivan831
Jay820
Owen821
Rush804
Pulaski751
Brown701
Fountain642
Benton600
Blackford562
Ohio564
Pike500
Parke491
Vermillion470
Crawford440
Switzerland430
Martin420
Union330
Warren191
Unassigned0202

Ohio Coronavirus Cases

Data is updated nightly.

Confirmed Cases: 96305

Reported Deaths: 3596
CountyConfirmedDeaths
Franklin17619517
Cuyahoga13011487
Hamilton9297249
Lucas5114320
Montgomery411485
Summit3399218
Marion290145
Butler277861
Mahoning2470253
Pickaway237442
Stark1756137
Warren168935
Lorain166577
Columbiana160760
Trumbull1465105
Fairfield128529
Delaware124118
Licking117947
Clark110414
Lake106437
Wood97358
Clermont87411
Medina86935
Miami78837
Tuscarawas75914
Portage73460
Allen68242
Greene64411
Belmont59126
Mercer56113
Richland55911
Ashtabula55145
Erie54627
Geauga54044
Wayne51758
Ross4314
Huron3835
Ottawa36525
Sandusky35416
Athens3521
Darke34827
Hancock3443
Madison34310
Holmes3266
Lawrence2340
Auglaize2335
Union2281
Jefferson2122
Muskingum2071
Scioto2041
Putnam19817
Washington19822
Knox1897
Coshocton1866
Seneca1773
Preble1752
Crawford1685
Shelby1684
Morrow1632
Hardin15812
Clinton1546
Champaign1512
Fulton1431
Highland1411
Logan1362
Ashland1353
Defiance1334
Williams1293
Wyandot1287
Brown1201
Hocking1149
Guernsey1137
Perry1133
Carroll1105
Henry1102
Fayette1040
Monroe9118
Pike730
Jackson700
Van Wert701
Paulding640
Gallia621
Adams592
Vinton302
Meigs290
Harrison221
Morgan210
Noble160
Unassigned00
Fort Wayne
Broken Clouds
75° wxIcon
Hi: 77° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 75°
Angola
Overcast
73° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 73°
Huntington
Scattered Clouds
76° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 76°
Decatur
Broken Clouds
74° wxIcon
Hi: 75° Lo: 54°
Feels Like: 74°
Van Wert
Overcast
77° wxIcon
Hi: 76° Lo: 53°
Feels Like: 79°
Sunny, Pleasant Friday
WFFT Radar
WFFT Temperatures
WFFT National

Community Events