On May 8 the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction announced the winners of its second Global Holcim Awards competition. Selected from nearly 5,000 submissions from 121 countries, the four winning entries include a river remediation scheme in Morocco, a greenfield university campus in Vietnam, a rural planning strategy in China, and a shelter for day laborers in the United States. In total, $2 million in prize money was awarded.

Sponsored by Holcim Ltd, a multinational supplier of cement and aggregates (and its group companies), the Swiss-based Holcim Foundation was created in 2003 with the mission of promoting sustainable construction across the globe and raising awareness of the role of architecture, engineering, and urban planning in this aim.

The first Global Holcim Awards were bestowed in 2006 and included a railway station in Germany, an urban improvement scheme in Venezuela, a regional master plan in Italy, and a low-cost housing project in Canada. 

The three-year-long international competition begins at the regional level. Winners of gold, silver, and bronze awards in each of the five regional competitions—in Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa Middle East, and Asia Pacific— automatically qualify for the global program.

The 2009 global jury was headed by architect Charles Correa (India) and included structural engineer Peter Head (UK), architect Enrique Norten (Mexico/U.S.), sociologist Saskia Sassen (U.S.), civil engineer Hans-Rudolf Schalcher (Switzerland), and economist Rolf Soiron (Switzerland), who is also chairman of the advisory board of the Holcim Foundation and chairman of the board of directors of Holcim Ltd.

The next cycle of the Holcim Foundation’s competition opens July 1, 2010. Go to www.holcimawards.org for more information.


River remediation and urban development scheme; Fez, Morocco

Led by architect Aziza Chaouni of Morocco and urban planner Takako Tajima of the U.S., the project team’s strategy for revitalizing the Medina of Fez, the city’s historic center and a UNESCO World Heritage site, focused on remediating the polluted river that runs through it. The scheme introduces a multi-tiered approach to recovery that examines what currently exists and anticipates future interventions. A series of initiatives includes the promotion of biodiversity through the return of original ecological features, such as wetlands; the rehabilitation of economic, social, and civic activities through the renovation of architecture and the city’s traditional tanneries; and the revitalization of public spaces and creation of pedestrian zones.

Low-impact greenfield university campus; Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam

A new campus for Ho Chi Minh City’s University of Architecture, designed by architect Kazuhiro Kojima of Japan (with Daisuke Sanuki, also of Japan, and Trong Nghia Vo of Vietnam), appears to float over its 100-acre site on an island in the Mekong River Delta amid the surrounding mangroves and flooding rice fields. Characterized by intertwined looped forms, the low-rise campus is organized around a raised ring road and includes classrooms, administrative offices, libraries, sports facilities, and apartments for 2,000 students. Computational fluid dynamics (CFD) informed the design, resulting in an outcome that merges with and reflects the landscape. The project incorporates a range of sustainable strategies, including extensive use of photovoltaics, daylighting and natural ventilation schemes, harvested rainwater, and the employment of local materials and construction methods.

Sustainable planning for a rural community; Beijing, China

This comprehensive development plan for a village on the outskirts of Beijing is noteworthy for its concurrent commitment to heritage preservation, modern technology combined with the use of local materials, and professional project management. The project, intended as a prototype, aims to encourage villagers to remain in their communities in the face of rural exodus and increased urban density. Led by urban planners Yue Zhang and Feng Ni, both of China, the program employed detailed analysis of existing conditions, including field studies and community input, to arrive at an approach for architectural, infrastructural, and circulation renewal. The judges felt that the strategy, which takes into account new stringent ecological and energy-saving targets, has the potential to serve as a model for widespread sustainable development throughout the country.

Self-contained day labor station; San Francisco, California

Conceived by John Peterson, AIA, and Liz Ogbu of San Francisco-based nonprofit Public Architecture, this project provides a physical structure that serves as a labor-market and service delivery platform for day laborers and gives visibility to an overlooked community. “We felt this was a problem architecture could help solve,” says Ogbu, “by creating something beautiful and articulating something that is there.” In addition to offering shelter and a formal meeting place for laborers and employers, the station, which employs sustainable strategies and materials, provides restrooms, a kitchen, and an education/training space. Because day laborers, who typically congregate informally on street corners or parking lots waiting to connect with contractors, are often viewed as an indicator of social disorder by the surrounding community, this solution has broad implications. “Little projects can be big via replication,” emphasized sociologist Saskia Sassen at the May 31 handover ceremony.