Overwhelmed by the number and diversity of entries, the winners of the 2014 Velux Award for Students of Architecture have been announced
The jury of the International VELUX Award 2014 for Students of Architecture was overwhelmed by the number of entries and impressed by the fascinating diversity and wide understanding of light across the globe. The quality of the entries was high and the students responded with projects that expressed clear concepts and ingenuity. The schemes explored light through innovative and unique methods, inspiring new perspectives on the subject.
Although many projects were inspired by previous awards, many also explored new areas and wider contexts by addressing issues of heritage, of public space as well as issues of social and political unrest. They challenged issues of sustainability, social diversification, political issues, natural disasters and wars that affect us all, no matter where we live. The jury applauded entries that went beyond the parameters of design and chose to contribute more widely to society.
The variety of topics reflected a growing interest in technological developments, new materials and solar energy. Several projects looked at the physical properties of light; particularly going back to the basics of optics and materials, playing with the redirection of light and view. Others addressed methods of capturing, storing and redirecting daylight into a building or urban cityscape. Some entries considered the spiritual phenomenon of daylight and its impact on state of mind, health and wellbeing. Others looked at the dynamic and temporal quality of daylight and its effects on behaviour and spaces over time and the seasons. Another fascinating trend in many of the submitted projects was the ability of light to mark and trace smog and air pollution. Many entries used light as a catalyst to revitalise and repurpose abandoned structures.
The focus on daylight was introduced into the curriculum in several schools and many projects dealt with similar programmes, themes and locations. It is encouraging to see the active involvement and interaction of schools and teachers across continents; there seem to be no boundaries to the limits of student imagination.
The jury found a 50/50 split between strong and fully developed ideas and others that were only partially conceived. This is, however, to be expected. Many students are still quite young and this might be their first real experience of testing, learning and communicating their ideas. So a certain level of naivety and innocence is permissible. It takes a lifetime to understand how light affects humans so for the purposes of the award, the brief is more about experimenting with light. The jury found valuable insight in all of the submissions and looked over each entry at least twice. Some projects not among the original finalists were brought back to discuss aspects and approaches that were as impressive as the final winning entries.
Many projects displayed maturity, sophistication and design excellence. Many were very thoughtful and poetic with compelling presentations. Yet while the imagery and aesthetics were impressive, the jury would have liked to have seen the technical aspects explored more deeply in those submissions that dealt with specific applications; with more explanations, physical models and more detail on how the solutions actually worked. On the other hand, the jury would have also appreciated more aesthetic considerations in the presentations of those projects that elaborated on documented details, efforts and thinking.
The winning projects stood out and were so complex that the jury had to debate their relevance and evaluate them several times. They dealt not only with aesthetic qualities of light but also connected its functional aspects with aims beyond what is usually considered in terms of views or comfort. To this end, they explored political factors, challenging situations and brought social discussions into their work with light. All the winning projects were well researched, documented and beautifully rendered. Each had a delicate beauty that was rare and subtle.