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Introduction to the Emerging Architecture Awards

This issue celebrates the winners of the annual AR Awards for Emerging Architecture. Edging into the wider architectural firmament, the designers shown in these pages are the stars of tomorrow.

Since 1999, the AR Awards have nurtured the talents of an emerging generation of architects from all over the world and are now firmly on the radar of those striving to make their mark. Only built work is eligible for submission as our view has always been that architecture is not confined to paper or computerised theorising, but is a compact with society to build well and to build responsibly.

From the heady era of the Noughties, conditions have changed for architects and their clients, and the going is tougher than it used to be. Yet this does not seem to have diminished the wellspring of creativity running through the Awards. This year, just over 300 submissions were received from 48 countries, and winning schemes are spread over a remarkable range of locales, from Canada to Indonesia.

The jury also reflected a diverse international outlook. Chaired by AR Editor Catherine Slessor, it included Daniel Bonilla from Colombia, Nigel Coates from the UK, Florence Lipsky of French practice Lipsky + Rollet, Gurjit Singh Matharoo from India (who was also winner of AR House), and Jennifer Dixon of London-based firm Austin-Smith:Lord, one of two sponsors of the Awards. The other is Triflow Concepts, manufacturer of beautifully designed taps and accessories. We’re grateful for their generosity which makes possible not only the Awards programme, but also an associated exhibition of winning entries and a series of lectures at the RIBA in London. Such activities help to disseminate the debate begun in these pages. The exhibition opens on 25 November and full details of the lecture series can be found in the forthcoming January issue.

The ebb and flow of the jury’s discussions owed much to different experiences and world views, but all were agreed on the importance of certain key assessment criteria: connectedness to place, appropriate use of materials and technology, the cultivation of environmental and social responsibility, and some sense of architectural authenticity (as opposed to novelty), which is perhaps increasingly difficult to define in these cut-and-paste times.

The three first prize winners interpret these concerns in very different ways. Ryo Abe’s austerely beautiful canopy of charred shingles on a remote Japanese island is a meditation on nature, simplicity and place. Carmody Groarke’s delightful pop-up restaurant celebrates an intuitive, vagabond spirit. And NHDRO’s remodelling of an existing building in Shanghai’s docklands into a new boutique hotel is an intelligent paradigm for the creative reuse of historic structures, which has a wider and hopefully instructive resonance in China’s current expansionist milieu.

Though the Awards are now in their 12th year, we continue to be amazed by the depth and ingenuity of the architectural thinking demonstrated in the submissions. And despite the current turbulent climate, we hope that this issue will be a powerful incentive for others to go out and do even better.

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