The first Polish building ever to reach the Mies van der Rohe Award finals, the Szczecin Philharmonic Hall, was crowned this year's winner in a ceremony in Barcelona today. The architects behind it, Spanish-based firm Estudio Barozzi Veiga, headed by Fabrizio Barozzi and Alberto Veiga, were rightfully delighted. 'It is an honour, it's really incredible,' Barozzi said of the prize, which was also the practice's first built work in Poland.

Competition was steep with a stellar line up of nominees including the Ravensburg Art Museum in Germany by LedererRagnarsdóttirOei; the Danish Maritime Museum by BIG; the Antinori Winery in Italy by Archea Associati; and the Saw Swee Hock Student Centre LSE in London by recent RIBA Gold Medal winners O’Donnell + Tuomey.

The prize, awarded every two years to a European building, is organised by the European Commission and the Fundació Mies van der Rohe in Barcelona. Select institutions and experts propose their respective country’s best buildings of the last two years; architects cannot enter directly. The long list of 420 projects is then whittled down by a panel of judges before deliberating on the best. This year the award opened up considerably to the public through a series of talks and presentations in the days running up to the final announcement.

Presented at the foundation's famous headquarters, the reconstructed Mies van der Rohe pavilion, the main award followed the announcement of the Emerging Architect category winner, which went to young Spanish practice Architectura G for their residential project Casa Luz. 'The architects achieved a high level of quality of space through intelligent use of low cost materials,' explained jury chairman Cino Zucchi.

'Architecture is fundamental in creating new business and opportunities in European cities,' added the Mies van der Rohe Foundation’s Director, Giovanna Carnevali. Now in its 14th edition, the award celebrates excellence in new built work and, as this year's list proves, spans a variety of scales and typologies, making the selection even harder.

One of the key elements judges looked at to help make their final decision was the relationship of the buildings with their context - historical, social and geographic. 'Our client was the local government and it was the first very important cultural building in Szczecin since, almost, the war. They put a lot of energy in it,' says Barozzi. 'We try to work with the uniqueness of each place, to avoid generic architecture and to avoid being self-referential. It was important for us to learn from the context and try to transform it. We want to support a new vision.'

TAGS: ARCHITECTURE AWARDS AND PRIZES, CONCERT HALL ARCHITECTURE