2021 is the 9th consecutive year of Architizer’s A+ Awards, which is designed to celebrate the best architecture of the year. For each category, finalists are judged by distinguished figures from a variety of fields, from architecture to real estate and fashion, resulting in one Jury Winner and one Popular Choice winner as voted on by the Architizer community. These winners are highlighted on the Architizer Winners Gallery and each receive a trophy, as well as inclusion in a beautiful hardcover compendium of yearly winners.
This year, the core of the awards was ‘designing for a changing world’, with over five thousand entrants responding to the task. Jurors included Professor Lesley Lokko (Founder and Director, African Futures Institute), Céline Semaan (Founder & Executive Director, Slow Factory Foundation), and Aric Chen (M+ Museum, Design Miami), while over 400,000 votes poured in to decide the Popular Choice winners. With over fifty categories, the A+ Awards celebrated more than a hundred winners, so here are the Casper team’s favourites from 2021.
Maggie’s is a charity in the United Kingdom that establishes cancer support centres where patients and their loved ones can find information, emotional and psychological support, and other people with similar experiences. Their free services are available in person in their centres, located near hospitals, or online, assisting people at all points of their journey.
The ethos of Maggie’s centres is to provide a place for patients to go to escape the often overwhelming atmosphere of the hospital. Maggie’s are all welcoming, comforting, and uplifting spaces, a far cry from the clinical experiences within the hospital proper. Every centre is a unique building that suits its surroundings, with designs taking cues from the co-founder of the charity, Maggie Keswick Jencks. From ‘thoughtful lighting’ to natural landscapes and views, the centres are designed to connect indoor and outdoor spaces, often with an emphasis on gardens. That emphasis is exemplified by Heatherwick Studio’s iteration of a Maggie’s centre in Leeds.
Located at St James’s University Hospital, Maggie’s Leeds is a home nestled within wild gardens. The centre’s design comprises three large planters on a slope surrounding the kitchen, which forms the core of every Maggie’s: a cup of tea at the kitchen table is the most comfortable experience. The roofs and surrounds of the three interconnected buildings are covered in plants, standing in stark contrast to the built environment of the hospital. With soft lighting, natural materials, and versatile spaces, Maggie’s Leeds certainly fulfills Heatherwick Studio’s aim to create a centre that is ‘soulful and welcoming’, remaining true to the empathetic ethos of the charity.
This A+ Awards winner is another incredible building for an incredible cause. The Rajkumari Ratnavati Girl’s School was commissioned by CITTA, a non-profit organisation that centres its efforts on supporting the development of marginalised communities across the globe. One of their focuses is geographically remote communities, which describes well the Thar Desert region of Jaisalmer in Rajasthan, India. In this region, women’s literacy reaches just 32%, making a girl’s school a definite priority. The school will be joined by two other buildings – a performance and art exhibition space, and a Women’s Cooperative – to form the GYAAN Center.
The complex aims to empower women in the region, educating them and helping them to establish their own economic independence, so the designer, Diana Kellogg, researched symbols of femininity and strength to connect the structure with its purpose. This resulted in the three-oval structure, which represents the power of femininity and infinity as well as the sand dunes of the surrounding desert. To further ground the building in local culture, Kellogg designed the school entirely out of Jaisalmer sandstone hand-carved by local craftsmen, incorporating the community into what will be a community-focused complex.
Using local materials resulted in low carbon emissions for the project’s construction, while a solar panel canopy will reduce ongoing energy use while keeping the structure cool. The central courtyard and oval building shape maximise cool air flow within the school. The beautiful building is an understated monument steeped in local culture and community, setting the young women of Jaisalmer up for success.
The Architizer A+ Awards are a great celebration of the top architectural projects of the year. These two projects – Maggie’s Leeds and the Rajkumari Ratnavati Girl’s School – are just two of the amazing winners for this year, so head to Architizer’s website to browse the full list of winners!
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