I just finished my day of judging the Civic and Community session of the WAF in Barcelona. The festival competition is divided into sixteen categories, with each session winner going into a final round to determine the Building of the Year. My session’s jurors included the Japanese architect Sou Fujimoto and the Canadian (now living in London) Renato Benedetti, and we spent the day working our way through 14 entries, including the new British Embassy in Algiers by John McAslan + Partners, and a fine Mexican church and community center by Sordo Madaleno Arquitectos.
In my mind, however, two projects stood out from the rest. The first was a fantastic woolly-mammoth-like bar built of long arching bamboo poles and covered with what looked like palm fronds. But since the project, nWn Bar by Vo Trang Nghia Co., is a cafe and pub, we questioned the designers about how it fit into the theme of a civic or community building. The designers conferred, and then explained that they built a model of the project, which they donated to a community library; the bar is also “free to enter,” they said. That didn’t cut it, so we moved on to other projects.
The second project I supported—and the one that was my favorite—was the Emergency Terminal in Zagreb, Croatia by Produkcija 004. It’s a civic building that, while not publicly accessible, serves as the headquarters for the city’s emergency response teams. It has car parking for ambulances, beds for workers, and, in case of national emergency, cold storage facilities for antibiotics and vaccines. The building itself is wrapped in a stretched polymer fabric that allows all the structure’s functions to be read on the facade, and is ablaze at night with fluorescent light.
I really like the building, and helped push it through to the next round, but the jury decided to give special commendation to two small, exquisite projects: a wonderfully appropriate Reconstructionist Congregation synagogue in Evanston, Illinois by Ross Barney Architects and La Cisnera Community Center on the Spanish island of Tenerife by GPY Arquitectos.
On my way out of the assembly hall to yet another drinks party, I ran into several journalists who confirmed the rumor that the two women in the running to direct the upcoming architecture biennale are indeed Kazuyo Sejima and New York’s own Liz Diller. Many are placing their money on Sejima to get the prize, but I am campaigning for our own Liz. Go Liz!