The category winners for The Architecture Drawing Prize 2021 have been announced. The industry gong, which celebrates the art of architectural drawing and sketching, is now in its fifth year, and forms part of the annual World Architecture Festival events.

The winning projects in each category for 2021 – Hand-Drawn, Hybrid, and Digital – are explored below. Also awarded was the inaugural Lockdown Prize, a new honour, given to one finalist from across the categories, and reflecting the challenges of the past two years. 

The grand overall winner will be announced on 25 January 2022 and their work, alongside that of the finalists and category winners, will be exhibited at the Sir John Soane’s Museum in London from 19 January to 19 February 2022. The drawings also form part of ‘The Architecture Drawing Prize: 5 Year Retrospective’, a virtual exhibition curated by Sir John Soane’s Museum and hosted in a digital space designed by Make Architects.  

2021 Architecture Drawing Prize category winners

The Hand-Drawn category winner: ‘Reconfiguring Addis Ababa’s Narratives’ by Antonio Paoletti

one of the 2021 architecture drawing prize category winners
‘Reconfiguring Addis Ababa’s Narratives’ by Antonio Paoletti

Paoletti’s drawings use the medium of the graphic novel to depict the role of rapid urbanisation and redevelopment that can often alienate marginal communities in Ethiopia’s capital, Addis Ababa. ‘The project aims to densify and reconfigure the old city without erasing its traces, interpreting its styles of life while providing a dynamic framework from which the settlement can grow organically through time,’ explains Paoletti.

Says Louise Stewart, curator of exhibitions at the Sir John Soane’s Museum and The Architecture Drawing Prize judge: ‘This impressive drawing uses an unusual format to place narrative and the impact of buildings on peoples’ lives at the heart of architectural drawing.’ 

The Hybrid category joint winners: ‘Fluid Strata’ by Filippa Dafni and ‘(Un)homeliness’ by Boji Hu

Fluid Strata by Filippa Dafni.
’Fluid Strata’ by Filippa Dafni

‘Fluid Strata’ is an exercise in navigating climate catastrophes. Her imagined scenario is set in central London in the year 2100, Dafni explains, when ‘the hydrological overflows, accumulated due to the global sea-level-rise, bring London’s primary flood defence system, the Thames Barrier, out of operation. As a result, London faces a series of catastrophic events directly linked to saltwater intrusion and urban flooding in most central regions.’ Deep Ground, a flood defence mechanism embedded into the earth, is proposed, ‘in order to ensure the city’s survival; the project deploys the existence of London’s Hidden Rivers as core agents of a responsive flood defence organism.’ 

‘As a jury we were all impressed by Fluid Strata and the way it blurs the lines between physical objects and drawing with great skill and imagination, making it a truly exceptional example of a hybrid rendering,’ says judge and founder of Make Architects, Ken Shuttleworth.

part of Boji Hu’s ‘(Un)homeliness’ submission for the 2021 architecture drawing prize
‘(Un)homeliness’ by Boji Hu

Boji Hu’s ‘(Un)homeliness’ explores the boundaries of the private and public through the possibilities of unoccupied urban interiors as activated housing spaces for the homeless, refugees and asylum seekers. ‘Inhabitable structures are prefabricated and assembled into the archipelago of urban vacancy, transferring abandoned spaces into the collective home for the vulnerable.’ 

Judge Lily Jencks, architect and co-founder of Lily Jencks Studio/Jencks Squared, reflects on Hu’s work as ‘a powerful story told with a moody suggestive pencil gesture. It was exciting to see the stills animated with sound to convey a strong atmospheric urban scene, accompanied by beautiful renders to give a sense of a full potential of hybrid architectural drawings.’ The research is split into two parts and is composed of a hand-drawn short film and a set of carefully crafted images. 

Digital category and Lockdown Prize winner: ‘Site(s) of Flux’ by Zachary Higson

Site(s) of Flux by Zachary Higson.
‘Site(s) of Flux’ by Zachary Higson

‘Site(s) of Flux’ interrogates the nature of place in architectural production by motioning between the relations of studio and site. The site, a disused sand quarry in Plumpton, requires ‘constant movement of material in order to retain ownership’. Higson works with limitations in mobility due to the constraints of the pandemic. ‘The project aims to utilise the bedroom as a proxy for the site. A duality emerges between the intended flux of material and the conceptual flux between the simulated world and the bedroom.’ His project asks questions, such as: ‘What happens to architecture that exists within such confines? How can architectural projects be conceived through such limitations and what effect do these creations have upon one another?’ Higson utilises mediums such as ‘physical and digital kitbashing, simulations and photogrammetry studies’ to nudge the boundaries between architecture and engineering.

For Narinder Sagoo, judge and a senior partner at Foster + Partners, this project ‘creates a Soane-like montage of models, photos and paintings within a two-dimensional picture plane. A drawing within a drawing, and more. One could explore this piece time and time again, discovering another level of genius each time.’ 

‘Site(s) of Flux’ was also selected for The Lockdown Prize category. Paul Finch, World Architecture Festival director and chair of the judging panel, said of the inaugural winner: ‘This drawing was generated in the potentially claustrophobic context of home isolation during the pandemic. The depth of constructive engagement with the immediately available, and the work that resulted, make “Site(s) of Flux” a worthy winner of this year’s Lockdown Prize.’ 

The Architecture Drawing Prize is co-curated by Make Architects, Sir John Soane’s Museum, and World Architecture Festival. §