Edition 2005

European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award 2005. Jury Proceedings

The Jury of the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture – Mies van der Rohe Award met on two occasions, in January and later in March. During the first meeting in Barcelona, the members made their initial selection, basing their choice on the graphic data and dossiers of the 242 entries for this 2005 edition. After debate, 31 projects were singled out for the initial phase (there would be 33 on completion of both phases).

A shortlist was subsequently drawn up of projects to be visited:

Forum 2004 Esplanade and Photovoltaic Plant in Barcelona by José Antonio Martínez Lapeña and Elías Torres
Netherlands Embassy in Berlin by Office for Metropolitan Architecture / Rem Koolhaas and Ellen van Loon
Braga Municipal Stadium in Portugal by Eduardo Souto de Moura
Selfridges & Co Department Store in Birmingham by Future Systems / Jan Kaplicky and Amanda Levete
30 St Mary Axe (Swiss Re Headquarters) in London by Foster and Partners / Norman Foster.

In their final deliberations in March, the Jury weighed the different strategies pursued by the projects it had visited. The qualities of each of the buildings were subject to discussion:

the architecturally attractive role of the Selfridges store as part of the refurbished urban core of Birmingham;

the exceptionally high degree of sophistication and detail of the Swiss Re tower, which stands like a lighthouse in London's City quarter;

the potent sign-like presence of the Forum photovoltaic panel, an emblem of the upgrading of Barcelona's urban seafront at the lower end of Avinguda Diagonal;

the impact of the Braga stadium in harmony with its surroundings;

the unprecedented concept of 'trajectory' applied to the highly restrictive embassy programme in Berlin.

It soon became obvious that the Jury members were unanimous in their praise of two works in particular: OMA's Embassy and Souto de Moura's Stadium, two projects that reject the concept of architecture-object in favour of harmonisation with the surrounding milieu, something they both achieve extraordinarily well: the reunified city of Berlin in the first case and the hilly landscape of Braga in the second. The Jury felt that the latter project presented a sculptural alternative to the usual spectacle of such buildings, and offered spectacular spaces sheltered underneath its simple forms.

The places where the rocks and the structure met were deemed especially memorable.

Having stressed the excellence of Souto de Moura's work in Braga, the Jury declared the Netherlands Embassy in Berlin by OMA (Rem Koolhaas and Ellen van Loon) winner of the Mies van der Rohe Award for the quality of the urban reflection and intelligence of the concept implemented.

The Jury felt that the Embassy was a powerful reconceptualisation of the notion of an embassy, a government agency, and a building block within a city. OMA's refusal to either adapt to the city grid or create a monument, choosing instead to create a carefully formed fragment that leaves open the question of what the identity of a government or a country should be, was much appreciated. It was also felt that the spiralling 'trajectory' that winds its metal-clad way through the whole block while allowing carefully framed views of the neighbouring city, produced such a seductive series of spaces carried out with such a sophistication of materials and visual effects and so revealing of its context that it should receive the 2005 Mies van der Rohe Award.

For the Emerging Architect Special Mention, the Jury selected NL Architects' BasketBar for the Utrecht University campus, the Netherlands, part of a plan for the site by OMA. The Jury believes that NL architects has shown its ability to create innovative and visually startling structures, and that this small building shows that they have disciplined their abilities to such an extent that they promise to make a significant contribution to the future of European architecture.