Prix Émile Hermès Design Award 2011

A low-energy cooktop
Arnaud le Cat, Esther Bacot and Luther Quenum of France's Unqui Designers scooped first prize for Shelved Cooking, a low-energy cooktop inspired by traditional Scandinavian cooking techniques. Their system involves bringing stews and casseroles to the boil, then leaving them to cook slowly in their own heat by cutting the energy source and insulating the cooking pot
(Image credit: Prix Émile Hermès)

Most designers and manufacturers will tell you that their goal is to make the world a more beautiful place. Some try to achieve this in a responsible manner, using sustainable materials and fair practices. But very few are committed to spreading their wealth to young designers with bright ideas on how to combine these twin aims. Hermès (opens in new tab) has become one of this rare breed, thanks to its triennial Prix Émile Hermès (opens in new tab).

Launched in 2008 and named after the Hermès heir who took charge of the company in 1921, the award gives a leg up to aspiring designers operating over a range of disciplines, from industrial design to architecture. Recently, Hermès added an eco mandate to the award, so 2011 brings us a new crop of environmentally conscious winners - each responding to this year's theme, 'Heat, me-heat, re-heat', with an innovative but practical exploration of heat use and conservation.

At the awards ceremony, head judge Toyo Ito (opens in new tab) and Pierre-Alexis Dumas, president of the Fondation d'entreprise Hermès, granted first prize (and 50,000 euros) to Arnaud le Cat, Esther Bacot and Luther Quenum of French design collective Unqui (opens in new tab) for a low-energy cooktop they call Shelved Cooking. Inspired by the Norwegian tradition of slow-cooking, the ergonomic plywood-and-plastic system represents an economical, energy-efficient solution for casseroles and stews.

The second and third-prize winners both presented space heaters, though wildly different in form and function. Germany's Daniel Abendroth (opens in new tab) and Andreas Meinhardt came second with H-Agent, a mobile heater that stores excess heat and redistributes it to cooler areas. Jarl Fernaeus (opens in new tab) of Sweden followed with Ecojoe, a wood-burning stove that uses remarkably little wood.

The winning entries, plus demos of how to use the projects from the 12 finalists, can be viewed on the Prix Émile Hermès interactive website (opens in new tab). Hopefuls for the 2014 prize should find plenty of inspiration.

Shelved Cooking consists of two cylinders set into a workbench

Unqui Designers' Shelved Cooking consists of two cylinders set into a workbench, each containing an induction hotplate. A cooking pot is placed inside the cylinder and brought to the boil. The hotplate is then switched off and the cylinder sealed with insulation flaps made from compressed layers of boiled wood, survival blanket and cork

(Image credit: Prix Émile Hermès)

Shelved Cooking

Unqui Designers claim their Shelved Cooking system can save around 75 per cent of the energy needed to make a dish of beef bourguignon or 45 per cent of the energy used cooking a vegetable stew

(Image credit: Prix Émile Hermès)

Store excess heat

Germany's Daniel Abendroth and Andreas Meinhardt were awarded second prize for the H-Agent, an automatic mobile heating device designed to capture and store excess heat, redistributing it in cooler areas

(Image credit: Prix Émile Hermès)

H-Agent is mounted on motorised wheels

H-Agent is mounted on motorised wheels and moves automatically around an interior space, guided by infra-red sensors

(Image credit: Prix Émile Hermès)

Ecojoe stove

Third prize was won by Jarl Fernaeus (Sweden) for his Ecojoe stove, a highly efficient wood-burning stove made from insulating concrete with painted sheet steel sides

(Image credit: Prix Émile Hermès)

Ecojoe is his response to statistics

Jarl Fernaeus's Ecojoe is his response to statistics showing that almost three billion people around the world cook on open wood fires, an extremely inefficient use of energy

(Image credit: Prix Émile Hermès)

Ecojoe stove

Based on the principles of the traditional wood-fired oven, Ecojoe reduces the amount of wood needed and the volume of particles released into the atmosphere by two thirds

(Image credit: Prix Émile Hermès)

Architectural module using high density photovoltaic technology

The jury awarded a Special Mention to Mohsen Saleh and Seyed Abdolnasser Taghavi (Iran/Italy) for Light Farm, an architectural module using high-density photovoltaic technology capable of generating 40 per cent of a household's electricity needs

(Image credit: Prix Émile Hermès)