A Nova Scotia village, a Tokyo kindergarten, a Copenhagen residential building and a Melbourne design school. These are the four finalists announced last week for the Moriyama RAIC International Prize, a Canadian-run but global award with a mission to celebrate how design can better the life of a community.
The Royal Architectural Institute of Canada (RAIC) announced the short list during its convention in Ottawa. The list consists of the "Shobac Campus" in Upper Kingsburg, N.S., by MacKay-Lyons Sweetapple Architects; 8 House in Copenhagen by Bjarke Ingels Group; Fuji Kindergarten in Tokyo by Tezuka Architects; and the Melbourne School of Design at the University of Melbourne by John Wardle Architects and NADAAA. "The four short-listed projects demonstrate how architecture is generous and gives back to the community," RAIC president Ewa Bieniecka said in a release. "These works have a strong sense of place and connect to their surrounding landscape."
The best known of these buildings is 8 House, designed by the well-known Danish architect Bjarke Ingels; the building brings together 475 units in a figure-eight composition that's pierced by a winding path. You can walk all the way up to the 10th floor, passing the patios and front doors of neighbours along the way. The Moriyama jury calls it "a bold and beautifully integrated mix of multigenerational housing and universally accessible design."
The sole Canadian entry is a long-term project led by the Nova Scotia architect Brian MacKay-Lyons. In Upper Kingsburg, MacKay-Lyons has worked with colleagues and students to design and build new structures in the community, repurpose historic buildings in the village and add new vacation rentals – all using architecture that builds upon the traditions of the region.
The Tokyo kindergarten by Tezuka Architects is in the form of an oval, with classrooms opening onto a central courtyard and a rooftop play area shared by all the students.
"This is an extraordinarily positive place," said the jury, which called the kindergarten "a giant playhouse filled with joy and energy, scaled to a broad range of the human condition.
Finally, the Melbourne design school is a building that establishes a creative environment and serves to demonstrate ideas about flexibility and sustainability to the students within it.
Its design was led by NADAAA, which is now completing another such school at the University of Toronto.
The Melbourne building "is a beautifully orchestrated space, thoughtfully detailed and well-crafted," the prize jury said.
"It redefines the educational mission by engaging students with the entire building as a collaborative learning environment."
With its $100,000 purse, the award is one of the world's richest prizes for design, and its focus is unusual.
The Moriyama is awarded to a single work of architecture, selected because "it is judged to be transformative within its societal context and reflects [architect Raymond] Moriyama's conviction that great architecture transforms society by promoting social justice and humanistic values of respect and inclusiveness," the prize organizers said in a release.
The last award, in 2014, went to the Chinese architect Li Xiaodong for a modest library outside Beijing that both serves the local community and has become an attraction for visitors.
This year's winner will be announced at a gala in Toronto Sept. 17.