European architecture up for debate in Barcelona

We dispatch from the Mies van der Rohe architecture award ceremony in Barcelona where architects from 38 countries join to discuss the future of architecture and urbanism. From a reimagining of a communist square in Tirana, to the redevelopment of a 1960s housing estate in Bordeaux and a co-living co-creating concrete block in Berlin – we make our own edit of some of the worthy and wonderful 40 shortlisted projects.

The EU Mies award winner, the Grand Parc Bordeaux involved a transformation of 530 dwellings by architectural team Lacaton & Vassal architectes; Frédéric Druot Architecture; Christophe Hutin Architecture.
The EU Mies award winner, the Grand Parc Bordeaux involved a transformation of 530 dwellings by architectural team Lacaton & Vassal architectes; Frédéric Druot Architecture; Christophe Hutin Architecture.
(Image credit: Philippe Ruault)

‘Living together’ and ‘common space’ were the tangible common threads at the finalists’ event for the EU40 Mies Award 2019, an architecture prize that is presented every two years.

Out of the nearly 400 projects put forward, which are selected by official architecture associations and experts from 38 countries, only 40 are shortlisted and a handful become finalists. In a fin de siècle hall in Barcelona, a few steps from Mies van der Rohe’s groundbreaking German Pavilion, six different studios presented what the jury considers to be some of the best of contemporary European architecture.

It’s difficult to disagree with their choices. Plaza Skanderbeg, by 51N4E, has banished cars from the centre of Tirana and provided the city with a vast meeting space with forests, water and movable seats made for sharing. In Berlin, the ziggurat-shaped Lobe Block by Brandlhuber + Emde almost forces the idea of co-living and mixed use through its bifurcated staircase, large terraces and living/working spaces that stagger in size over the levels.

The winner of the emerging architecture category was a School Refectory in Montbrun-Bocage.

The winner of the emerging architecture category was a School Refectory in Montbrun-Bocage.

(Image credit: BAST)

Architecten de Vylder Vinck Taillieu put forward architecture that heals with PC Caritas, a defunct psychiatric facility the studio transformed into a serene space for patients and carers with greenhouses and sheltered terraces. The French BAST studio took the Emerging Architect prize for the addition of an ethereal, transparent refectory to a public school in rural France, a project they described as using ‘minimal gestures for maximal effectiveness.’

The winner of the EU40 Mies Award 2019 also dropped in France for Lacaton & Vassal’s astonishing transformation of a vast 1960s block of 530 public housing dwellings in Bordeaux. The project, which will become a benchmark in how to make out-dated social housing more liveable, transformed the lives of the inhabitants inside (who were previously consulted before work began) with the addition of an second façade whose void added 53 per cent of living space in the form of an enclosed terrace with amazing views.

‘I propose a new definition of urbanism and architecture,’ said Anne Lacaton, at the close of her presentation, which received a standing ovation. ‘We need to create a discipline for the fusion of the inside and outside,’ she explained, before thanking Mr and Mrs van der Rohe, for the award.

The Wallpaper* edit of the 40 shortlisted projects...

Civic Centre Lleialtat Santsenca, Barcelona

Civic Centre Lleialtat Santsenca, Barcelona by HARQUITECTES – this renovation and restoration project arose from an understanding of the historic value of Lleialtat Santsenca – an old working class cooperative in the Sants area; maintaining as much as possible of the original building; and being sensitive to the whole collaborative process launched in 2009 by neighbourhood organisations to recover the building.

(Image credit: Adrià Goula)

Streetmekka Viborg, Denmark

Streetmekka Viborg, Denmark by EFFEKT – a 1970s suburban warehouse has been transformed into a covered streetscape offering sports facilities such as parkour, skate, bouldering, basketball, trial as well workshops for music, art, wood and metal, DJ, an animation studio and fab lab.

(Image credit: Rasmus Hjortshoj)

Terracehouse, Berlin

Terracehouse, Berlin by Brandlhuber + Emde, Burlon, Muck Petzet Architekten – located in Berlin-Wedding on the site of a former junk yard, this project is a mixed use building combining residential living with a gallery. The staggered concrete levels create a ziggurat-like shape with six metre deep terraces on each floor and a maximised semi-public space on the ground floor.

(Image credit: Erica Overmeer, David von Becker)

‘Théodore Gouvy’ Theatre, Freyming-Merlebach

‘Théodore Gouvy’ Theatre, Freyming-Merlebach by Dominique Coulon at Associés – in the north east of France, in a former coal mining town Freyming-Merlebach, a new theatre strikes an unusual silhouette as a new public space for the community with a 700-seat auditorium.

(Image credit: Eugeni Pons)

PC CARITAS, Melle, Belgium

PC CARITAS, Melle, Belgium by Architecten de Vylder Vinck Taillieu – once an old psychiatric clinic of many departments that each had their own ‘villa’ with open green spaces in between, this hospital was returned to its original context as a health facility, with restoration of brickwork and wooden floors and the addition of new greenhouse spaces.

(Image credit: Filip Dujardin)

Kapelleveld residential care centre, Temat, Belgium

Kapelleveld residential care centre, Temat, Belgium by Architecten de Vylder Vinck Taillieu – a friendly, low-lying building of two storeys in a typical Flemish village setting, that prioritises its rooms for residents – defined by their large windows with shading awnings. The pragmatic plan contains several wings, yet the whole building is covered by a slowly sloping and generous roof.

(Image credit: Filip Dujardin)

Lisbon Cruise Terminal, Portugal

Lisbon Cruise Terminal, Portugal by Carrilho da Graça – located on the river front, halfway between the Praça do Comércio and the Santa Apolónia train station, this compact light concrete building was designed as a small amphitheatre, that looks back at the city of Lisbon.

(Image credit: fg+sg)

Adaptation of the former factory Mlynica, Bratislava

Adaptation of the former factory Mlynica, Bratislava by GutGut – this project is an adaptation of a former industrial building, Mlynica, that combines living and working with the ambition of creating a unique community on a vast brownfield site in Bratislava.

(Image credit: Jakub Skokan and Martin Tůma (BoysPlayNice))

Reconstruction of Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, Serbia

Reconstruction of Museum of Contemporary Art, Belgrade, Serbia by Nooto and Dejan Todorović – originally designed by architects Ivanka Raspopović and Ivan Antić in 1959-60, this museum included six crystal-formed cubic modules placed on a rectangular base and rotated by 45 degrees. The project was a reconstruction, restoration and conservation of the architectural heritage.

(Image credit: Relja Ivanic)

Prada Productive Headquarter, Arezzo, Italy

Prada Productive Headquarter, Arezzo, Italy, by Canali Associati – a ‘green factory’ designed for employee wellbeing that respects the landscape. The facility is dedicated to Prada’s leather goods industry and craft and Prada also purchased an adjacent plot of land to ensure surrounding nature and views of the landscape.

(Image credit: Canali Associati)

​​​​​​​Skanderbeg Square, Tirana, Albania, by 51N4E

Skanderbeg Square, Tirana, Albania, by 51N4E; Anri Sala; Plant en Houtgoed; iRI – the redesign of this ex-communist square, a national symbol located at the centre of the capital city. The architects reorganised the vast space in a simple yet radical manner, creating a ‘void in the chaos of the city.’

(Image credit: Filip Dujardin)


For more information, visit the EU Mies Award website