Edition 2007

European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture - Mies van der Rohe Award 2007. Jury Proceedings

The jury of the European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture - Mies van der Rohe Award has agreed to grant the 2007 Award to MUSAC - Museo de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León, designed by Luis M. Mansilla and Emilio Tuñón/Mansilla+Tuñón Arquitectod (Madrid).

The jury met on two occasions, in January and April 2007.

During the first meeting in Barcelona, the members reviewed the 272 proposals submitted by the independent experts, national architects' associations and the Advisory Committee to the Award. Following a discussion on the works, 40 projects were selected for inclusion in the exhibition and catalogue.

A shortlist of seven projects was subsequently drawn up as finalists to be awarded the 2007 European Union Prize for Contemporary Architecture - Mies van der Rohe Award, following a visit to each individual building.

The final seven schemes are:

Sines Art Centre (Centro de Artes de Sines) in Sines, Portugal by Manuel Aires Mateus, Francisco Aires Mateus/Aires Mateus e Associados (Lisbon)

Mercedes-Benz Museum in Stuttgart, Germany by Ben van Berkel/UNStudio (Amsterdam)

America's Cup Building (Edifici Veles e Vents) in Valencia, Spain by David Chipperfield/David Chipperfield Architects (London and Berlin), Fermín Vázquez/b720 Arquitectos (Barcelona)

Phaeno Science Center (Phæno - Die Experimentierlandschaft) in Wolfsburg, Germany by Zaha Hadid/Zaha Hadid Architects (London)

School for Management, (Pôle universitaire de sciences de gestion), in Bordeaux, France by Anne Lacaton, Jean Philippe Vassal/Lacaton & Vassal Architectes (Paris)

MUSAC - Contemporary Art Museum of Castilla y León (Museo Nacional de Arte Contemporáneo de Castilla y León) in León, Spain by Luis M. Mansilla, Emilio Tuñón/Mansilla+Tuñón (Madrid)

National Choreographic Centre (Centre chorégraphique nationale) in Aix-en-Provence, France by Rudy Ricciotti/Rudy Ricciotti architecte (Bandol)

Following visits to the seven projects on 11-15 April 2007, the jury met for its second meeting in Wolfsburg, Germany, on 15 April 2007. Following an extended debate, the jury members reached the following conclusions about the individual works and their respective qualities.

Sines Art Centre

There was broad consensus that the modestly sized project achieved a strong integration at the street and urban level with its context at a spatial and tectonic level. The sectional planning and introverted nature of the design with a strong emphasis on deep skylights and vertical daylighting gave cause for concern in terms of the building's legibility and fitness for purpose in relation to its core function as an art space. Nonetheless, the contemporary architectural language and use of materials was commended as was the determination of the client to create a clear cultural statement at the heart of small town in search of a modern identity.

Mercedes-Benz Museum

The heroic scale, spatial fluidity and material craftsmanship of the building were uniformly admired for a structure that sits in a fragmented extra-urban landscape which lacks a sense of place. The dynamic double spiral circulation system created a successful integration between the movement flow of the visitor and the large number of vehicles and objects on display, allowing views through and across the atrium that enhanced its three-dimensionality. Given the grandeur of its scale and spatial gestures, the design succeeds in creating a range of different spatial experiences as one moves through the building. The exceptional level of detailing and control of materials was noted and applauded.

America's Cup Building

There was unanimous appreciation of how this apparently simple structure succeeds in reconfiguring the sense of place at the heart of Valencia's port area with exceptional economy of means and minimal architectural language. The ability of the oversailing cantilevered terraces to frame views of the surroundings and make an essentially private building feel public was considered a significant achievement for a building that builds on established conventions of a rectilinear and planar architecture, adding a very dynamic sense of movement and experience for the visitor. While the absence of a clear long-term programme and ability of the contractor to deliver a consistent level of detailing (due to overwhelming time and costs constraints) was noted, it failed to diminish the architectonic power of this oeuvre.

Phaeno Science Center

The spatial dynamism of the external form of the building was considered original and exceptional creating a truly unique three-dimensional urban experience at the heart of Wolfsburg. The heroic scale and structural ingenuity of the building created a well-balanced form with an appropriate scale that was perceived as being both welcoming and intriguing. There was considerable debate about the success of the interplay between the exposed internal steel structure and the volumetric articulation of the concrete volumes, and whether the internal potential of the cone structures were fully optimised by the organisation of the displays. Nonetheless, there was full admiration for the maturity and confidence of a building that represents the creative and tectonic peak of a unique architectural repertoire.

School for Management

The clarity and economy of the layout and detailing of the academic complex was admired, in recognition of the architects' ability to do 'more with less' in an unfriendly suburban and fragmented environment. The design approach successfully invests a significant portion of the project's minimal resources in creating extra volume and space – in courtyards, terraces and foyer areas - in a building type that is typically characterised by adherence to minimal space standards and strict functional requirements. The use of extensive areas of rose-bush planting along external grille facades did not add to the poetic experience of the building, somewhat weakening the architectural rigour of a project which is predicated on a robust and radical re-interpretation of a tectonically assured modernism.

National Choreographic Centre

The imposing tilted vertical geometry of the external structural system defines a strong spatial experience of a building designed to withstand earthquakes in this region of the south of France. The expressed structure creates a glazed box with a strong urban presence while the interior contains elegant, translucent, column-free internal dance studios where artists enjoy the skyline and can be seen from different vantage points in the city. The building raised issues about its ability to engage successfully with its immediate surroundings along the street and theatre entrances but was strongly commended for its structural coherence and confidence which was fully integrated with its architectural raison-d'etre and demonstrated a refreshingly honest relationship to tectonic exigencies and the nature of the construction process.

MUSAC - Contemporary Art Museum of Castilla y León

The apparent simplicity and scale of the MUSAC cultural centre, located in the undistinguished peripheral landscape of León, belies an architecture of significant complexity and depth. Designed around a modular system of distorted quadrilateral lozenge-shaped structures, it creates a network of interconnected spaces dedicated to the display and consumption of contemporary art. Full-height doors double up as display walls which can be reconfigured to suit the requirements of changing exhibitions and the efficient movement of art works across the museum. Double-height vertical lanterns rise above the common horizontal plane of this sprawling single-height building, creating a rich and intense interior world around open courtyards and the multi-faceted entry plaza.

One of the outstanding successes of the museum lies in the effortless integration between the programmatic visions of its clients and the building's ability to deliver spaces that work – first and foremost – for the art and the people who visit it. The standard gallery units, with exposed concrete finishes and industrialised roof structure, adapt with great ease to the demands of a changing arts programme with some rooms filled with poetic light interspersed with black-boxes for multi-media displays. The coloured texture of the exterior panels facing the entry plaza and street contribute to the creation of an urban presence to a building that otherwise retreats from its surroundings. There was consensus that the architectural language, tectonic integrity and spatial dynamism of MUSAC represented a confident and original statement for the future of European architecture.

For the Emerging Architect Special Mention, the jury selected the Faculty of Mathematics (Fakulteta za metematiko) in Ljubljana, Slovenia by Matija Bevk, Vasa J. Perović/bevk perović arhitekti (Ljubljana).

Faculty of Mathematics

Based on the material submitted, the jury welcomed the unaffected materiality and formal coherence of the building by this emerging practice in Slovenia, whose body of work displays a mature and confident interpretation of the architectural vocabulary of modernism.