On Thursday, July 22, the Royal Institute of British Architects (RIBA) revealed the 16 buildings it deems among the world’s most significant and inspirational outside of the UK (where the best works are eligible for the Stirling Prize), awarding them this year’s prestigious International Awards for Excellence.

Spread across 11 countries, the winners of the biannual prize were judged by a diverse panel of local architects who visited each building. The award criteria: design excellence, architectural ambition, and social impact. Among this year’s selection two projects are located in North America: The Polygon Gallery in Vancouver, British Columbia by Patkau Architects; and The National Memorial for Peace and Justice in Montgomery, Alabama by MASS Design Group.

The remaining 14 awardees follow:

  • Alila Yangshuo in Guangxi, China by Vector Architects
  • Amorepacific Headquarters in Seoul, South Korea by David Chipperfield Architects Berlin with HAEAHN Architecture and KESSON
  • Artists’ Retreat at Pittugala in Athurugiriya, Sri Lanka by Palinda Kannangara Architects
  • Dongziguan Villagers’ Activity Center in Hangzhou, China by gad · line+ studio
  • Friendship Hospital, Satkhira in Shyamnagar, Bangladesh by Kashef Chowdhury/URBANA
  • James-Simon-Galerie in Berlin by David Chipperfield Architects Berlin
  • Kohan Ceram Central Office Building in Tehran, Iran by Hooba Design Group
  • Lianzhou Museum of Photography in Lianzhou, China by O-office Architects/Jianxiang He & Ying Jiang
  • Lille Langebro in Copenhagen, Denmark by WilkinsonEyre with Urban Agency
  • Modern Art Museum and its Walkways in Shanghai by Atelier Deshaus
  • Msheireb Downtown Doha Masterplan in Qatar by Allies and Morrison with Arup and AECOM 
  • Renovation of the Captain’s House in Fuzhou, China by Vector Architects
  • Expansion of the University Hospital of the Santa Fe de Bogotá Foundation in Colombia by El Equipo Mazzanti/Giancarlo Mazzanti
  • Tai Kwun – The Centre for Heritage and Arts in Hong Kong by Herzog & de Meuron (architect and masterplan); Purcell (conservation architect); Rocco Design Architects Associates Limited (executive architect)

According to RIBA President Alan Jones, “Our global awards are presented to an ambitious and diverse range of projects from a wide range of established and upcoming practices. It is particularly important to consider excellence in architecture at this time—in this fast-changing world, where governments, clients and society need the skills and insight of architects.” According to Jones these buildings show how well-considered, well-delivered and well-performing architecture has the potential to improve lives and communities. “We are very pleased to be able to celebrate some of the most innovative, ingenious and impactful architecture in the world–designed by some of the most talented architects of our time,” he said in a statement.

The awards, initially scheduled for 2020, were delayed a year due to COVID. Among the 16 winning projects, four will be shortlisted in September for this year’s International Prize. The winners of the 2021 RIBA International Emerging Architect Prize and the RIBA International Prize—to be announced in November—will be selected by a grand jury, led by French architect Odile Decq, that includes artist and stage designer Es Devlin: Studio Gang founder Jeanne Gang; Neri&Hu founding partner Rossna Hu, and Gustavo Utrabo winner of the 2018 RIBA International and Emerging Architect prizes.