The 2012 Global Holcim Award winners were announced today, with Berlin-based architect Diébédo Francis Kéré taking the Gold Award and $200,000 for a secondary school he designed for his native village of Gando, Burkina Faso. As Kéré's practice has grown (with current projects in countries ranging from Switzerland to China) he has remained dedicated to improving conditions in his 6,000-person village. He has designed, raised funds to build, and coordinated the construction of public buildings from a primary school—for which he won the Aga Khan Award for Architecture in 2004—to a library and a women’s center, both under construction.
The Holcim jury praised Kéré’s secondary school, which is currently under construction, for improving conditions in the village by providing jobs and training. It includes passive ventilation to counter Gando’s brutally hot summers. “It’s not only a very elegant design solution, but it’s a project that brings together the work of the community,” says Enrique Norton, principal of TEN Arquitectos and head of the jury. “It uses local materials, and with very simple means, it creates a really fabulous environment, both from a social point of view and also a constructive point of view.”
Three Global Holcim Innovation Prizes were also awarded for the first time this year, honoring “contributions to innovative building materials and construction technologies in the context of sustainable construction,” according to the official announcement. Those awards went to Matthias Kohler of Zurich-based Gramazio & Kohler for a reusable concrete formwork system made of wax; Barkow Leibinger Architects for a prefabricated multi-family housing project; and Povilas Cepaitis from the AA School of Architecture in London for “Cast on Cast,” a fabrication system that breaks complex typically cast-in-place geometries down into smaller precast components.
The Holcim Awards, a two-stage, international competition held on a three-year cycle, recognizes innovative projects and concepts that balance sustainable building with social good. Regional competitions are first held in Europe, North America, Latin America, Africa/Middle East, and Asia Pacific. The 53 projects that won regional Holcim awards in 2011 were eligible for the global awards. The next awards cycle will begin in 2013.