The North American recipients of the Holcim Awards (left to right): David Benjamin, Caitlin Taylor, Amy Mielke, Kai-Uwe Bergmann, and Matthijs Bouw.

On September 18 the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction announced the winners for the North American segment of its international awards program at a ceremony held at Evergreen Brick Works in Toronto. Over the course of the evening, which was enlivened by an unseasonable cold snap that pervaded the largely open-air venue (a community environmental center that won a Holcim award in 2008), 13 projects were recognized and a total of $330,000 in prize money was awarded.

Selected from 211 “formally correct” entries, winners were awarded gold, silver, and bronze, as well as four acknowledgements, and six “Next Generation” prizes for young professionals and students. The projects were wide in range, from an air-purification wall to an affordable infill housing project in Boston to a scheme for urban flood protection infrastructure. The gold, silver, and bronze winners will be contenders for Holcim’s global awards, vying for the prizes along with the winners from four other regions: Europe, Latin America, Africa Middle East, and Asia Pacific.

Sponsored by Holcim Ltd, a multinational supplier of cement and aggregates, the Swiss-based Holcim Foundation was created in 2003 to promote sustainable construction across the world and raise awareness for finding sustainable responses to technical, ecological, socioeconomic, and cultural challenges in the field. While the program recognizes creative vision, it is particularly interested in rewarding work with a promising future; the organizers say that half of the award-winning projects from the last four cycles (which are unbuilt at the time of entry) have been recognized or are under construction.

The North American jury, which met over the summer at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology (a partner university), was headed by Toshiko Mori (principal, Toshiko Mori Architect) and consisted of Dana Cuff (director of UCLA’s cityLAB); Jeffrey Laberge (JL Richards & Associates); Marc Angélil (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich); Sarah Whiting (dean of Architecture, Rice University); Guillaume Habert (Swiss Federal Institute of Technology, Zurich); Mark Jarzombek (associate dean of architecture and planning, MIT); Lola Sheppard (Lateral Office); and Alain Bourguignon (Holcim).

  • Gold went to “Poreform”, a concept by Amy Mielke and Caitlin Taylor of the Water Pore Partnership. The project, designed for Las Vegas, consists of a poured-in-place concrete surface with a fabric formwork, which absorbs water and feeds runoff into massive subterranean basins.
  • Silver was awarded to “Rebuilding by Design” by the Bjarke Ingels Group. Affectionately referred to as “The Big U”, the project proposes a protective berm system encircling lower Manhattan. The master plan, intended to be executed in several phases, creates various public spaces along its raised banks.
  • Bronze went to “Hy-Fi” by David Benjamin of the Living architecture lab. The sculptural cluster of tree-trunk like towers, commissioned by and designed for MoMA PS1’s Young Architects Program for construction, employed innovative materials and construction techniques to produce a zero carbon emissions, compostable design.
  • Acknowledgement prizes were awarded to Kennedy & Violich Architecture; NADAAA; Peter Arnold and Hadley Arnold of Arid Lands Institute at Woodbury University; and Etienne Feher, Paul Azzopardi, and Noé Basch of Paris-based ABF-lab.

All in all, the fourth International Holcim Awards attracted 6,103 entries for projects in 152 countries on all continents. In 2015 the three Awards winners from each of the five regions will submit more comprehensive presentations to be evaluated by a global jury, which will award the Global Holcim Awards gold, silver, and bronze prizes.

For more on the awards, visit