Art Biotop Water Garden

The inaugural Obel Award has been awarded to Art Biotop Water Garden by Junya Ishigami+Associates it was announced at a ceremony at the Utzon Center in Aalborg, Denmark, 22 October 2019.

The Japanese architect Junya Ishigami is celebrated for his experimental structures that interpret traditional architectural conventions and reflect natural phenomena. Ishigami (b. 1974) worked as an architect at SANAA before founding the prize-winning Junya Ishigami+Associates in 2004. Winner of the Golden Lion award at the Venice Biennale of Architecture in 2010, he was the subject of a major and critically acclaimed solo exhibition at the Fondation Cartier pour l’art contemporain in 2018 that is travelling to the Power Station of Art in Shanghai later this year. He is known for designs with dream-like qualities that incorporate the natural world, such as landscapes, forests and clouds, in an architectural practice that places humankind as part of nature. He was selected to design the Serpentine Pavilion 2019.

Martha Schwartz, Chair of the Jury, said: “Ishigami’s architecture is the architecture of space, not of object, which is a departure from conventional architecture. He discards the idea of architecture as a built, utilitarian structure by reversing the business-as-usual process, which is: building first, landscape second – if at all. Instead, with the project ‘Water Garden’, Ishigami leaves us wondering: is this architecture, landscape architecture, or art?”

The Obel Award is a new, international prize for architectural achievement presented annually by The Henrik Frode Obel Foundation, founded by Henrik Frode Obel (1942-2014). The prize is 100,000 Euros and a unique artwork by leading artist Tomás Saraceno.

The aim of the award is to honour recent and outstanding architectural contributions to human development all over the world. These contributions should offer seminal solutions to urgent problems. The award is given to works or projects from the past five years. It can be given to an architect or group of architects, and the award-winning project can range from a manifesto to a masterplan and include buildings, landscape projects and exhibitions.

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Each year, the jury will set a theme for the Award. For the 2019 edition it is Welfare Through Architecture which aims to put a focus on the transformative and social value of architecture.

The 2019 Obel Award Jury: Martha Schwartz, Chair (Founder, Martha Schwartz Partners, USA), Kjetil Trædal Thorsen (Co-founder, Snöhetta, Norway), Louis Becker (Design Principal and partner, Henning Larsen, Denmark), and Dr Wilhelm Vossenkuhl (Professor emeritus, University of Munich, Germany). From 22 October, the Chinese architect Xu Tiantian (founding principal, DnA, Beijing, China) will join the jury.

Candidates for the award are proposed by a number of independent experts all over the world who are professionals and specialists within the field of architecture. This ensures that the award has a global perspective and reach. The Obel Award does not accept nominations from other sources.

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