This week I am representing The Architect’s Newspaper as a juror at Archmarathon an international architecture competition in Milan. The international jury is organized by Milanese critic Luca Molinari and has members from Lebanon, Europe the U.K., and AN from North America.
Like many other juries, it quickly became clear from the projects represented—and how their designers represent them—that architects are among the most socially responsible professions. They often work for the smallest fees for religious institutions updating their mandate to become more relevant social centers (Valer Church, Espen Surnevik Architects), NGO’s building housing in Africa (SOS Children’s Village, Urko Sanchez Architects) and private clients working in sensitive landmarked buildings (Houtloods, Bedaux De Brouwer Architects in Holland).
But at the same this competition brings me back to AN’s own Facades conferences. In more than half the presented projects (we saw 15 today) it is apparent that it is often the facade that is the key to the design, use and meaning of a structure. Several of the presented projects are renovated landmarked structures that need contemporary uses and meanings and it is glass walls that the designers want to use to open them up to the outside. Today two projects were new glass facades built alongside existing ones that are kept and repurposed. Several of these buildings are in northern Nordic countries (Ålgård Church by Link Arkitektur, Norway) and even here these colder climates the desire is to open up new structures to the outside and that requires sophisticated glass facade wall systems. It reminds me even more that glass walls are not just for corporate towers but small buildings in every imaginable climate from South to North and that both architects and their clients want glass facades. We will report on this international competition as it happens in the next three days.