The Copenhagen-based firm Tegnestuen Vandkunsten has been awarded the 10th Alvar Aalto Medal.
The prize is administered by the Finnish Ministry of Education, the Finnish Association of Architects, the Museum of Finnish Architecture, the Finnish Society of Architecture, and the Alvar Aalto Foundation. Since its creation in 1967, the award has been given approximately every five years for “significant achievements in creative architecture.” This is the first time the award has been given to a firm, rather than an individual.
Low-cost housing and social housing have been a focus of Tegnestuen Vandkunsten since its inception in 1970. Founded by four architects—Svend Algren, Jens Thomas Arnfred, Michael Sten Johnsen, and Steffen Kragh—the Danish firm now has 30 employees. According to its Web site, Tegnestuen Vandkunsten operates as a collective, building on “the best traditions of the Nordic welfare society,” which extend to the medal’s namesake, Alvar Aalto.
Jurors lauded the firm’s emphasis on “designs characterized by convertibility, communality, residential involvement, dense low rise, and sustainable development—long before they became buzzwords.” Projects mentioned include the 1971 Tinggården residential district, which promoted “social coherence” and was constructed using advanced technologies and simple materials, helping minimize construction costs. Also cited were Dianas Have, in Denmark, and Hestra Parkstad, in Sweden—row houses built in the 1990s that improved the daily life of residents and engaged the landscape, according to jurors. The firm also designed Copenhagen’s Torpedo Shipyard Housing (2001), which involved transforming a 1953 Danish Navy structure into 67 apartment units.
Members of this year’s jury were Anna Brunow, Mikko Heikkinen (chairman), Juha Ilonen, Pekka Pakkala, Matti Rautiola, Yoshio Taniguchi, and Gert Wingårdh. The medal—designed by Aalto himself—was presented at a ceremony on February 3 at the Aalto-designed Finnish Social Insurance Institution in Helsinki.