A secondary school project in Burkina Faso, a community center in Brazil, and an urban renewal plan in Germany are the winners of the Global Holcim Awards for 2012. The awards are presented on a three-year competition cycle by the Holcim Foundation to honor future-oriented and tangible sustainable-construction projects. The Global Holcim Award winners are chosen from a pool of 53 Gold, Silver, and Bronze award-winning projects in five global regions (Africa Middle East, Asia Pacific, Europe, Latin America, and North America). In total, more than 6,000 entries from 146 countries entered this year’s competition cycle.

Taking home the Gold Global Holcim Award, along with $200,000, is a secondary school project in the village of Gando in Burkina Faso that was created by Diébédo Francis Kéré of Kéré Architecture in Berlin, Germany. Gando is a village of 3,000 inhabitants that currently has no secondary education facilities. Recognizing that the region has summer temperatures that peak at 104 F, the design for Secondary School Gando capitalizes on passive ventilation strategies to create a comfortable indoor environment and reduce energy use. Constructed of round structures embedded in the countryside, the school spaces are sheltered from the eastern winds, but open to breezes from the west. The natural ventilation system relies on a series of earth tubes to cool and route air, as well as surrounding vegetation, stack-effect air currents, and double-skin roofs and facades. The project is designed to be constructed by the local community, providing jobs and training.

“This beautiful school is not only an elegant design solution, but it also delivers training and employment, uses local building materials, and—with simple means—create an outstanding environment from a social viewpoint and also in constructive terms,” says Enrique Norten, head of the Global Holcim Awards jury and principal and founder of TEN Arquitectos. 

Receiving the Silver award, along with $100,000, is a multifunctional community center in  São Paulo Brazil. The project, led by architecture firm Urban Think Tank, is designed for the Paraisopolis favela, which houses about 100,000 residents. It includes a terraced public space with areas for urban agriculture, a water-management system that uses rainwater and graywater, a public amphitheater, a music school, a small concert hall, sports facilities, public spaces, and transportation infrastructure. It is designed to prevent site erosion and mudslides on the surrounding steep landscape.

“This important intervention has the capacity to provide satisfaction and opportunities for the local community that create both connectivity and the construction in a viable way,” Norten says. 

The Bronze Award winner, which received $50,000, is an urban plan for an underutilized arm of the River Spree in Berlin, Germany. The plan transforms this section of the river into a natural, 745-meter-long swimming pool—a swimming zone equivalent to 17 Olympic-sized pools. Designed by realities united, the plan also includes a 1.8- hectare reed bed natural reserve with sub-surface sand-bed filters that purify the water. Water will enter the constructed wetlands above the pool and be treated naturally before moving down into the pool. Water will flow from the swimming pool into the main arm of the Spree, and the pool is dammed 5 cm higher than the Spree to prevent reverse water flow. Around the pool area, the lower section of the river will be made into a public space on either side of the river, and a part of the upper section will be widened into a wildlife refuge.

“The project celebrates urban living in one of the world’s greatest cities, and also honors the city’s connection to its waterways,” Norten notes. 

In addition to the three top prizes, the Global Holcim Awards program also allocated a total $150,000 in Innovation prizes to three projects. The winning projects were a construction technology that uses molds to combine existing processes and materials to fabricate cast-on-site concrete structures with reusable and digitally -fabricated wax formwork; a low-cost apartment project in Hamburg that uses prefabricated lightweight-concrete elements with recycled glass; and a research project on cast-concrete fabrication systems for geometrically complex building elements.

The full list of finalists and winners is below.

Global Holcim Awards 2012 Winners

Gold ($200,000)
Secondary school with passive ventilation system, Gando, Burkina Faso
Diébédo Francis Kéré, Kéré Architecture, Germany

Silver ($100,000)
Urban remediation and civic infrastructure hub, São Paulo Brazil
Alfredo Brillembourg and Hubert Klumpner, Urban Think Tank, Brazil

Bronze ($50,000)
Urban renewal and swimming-pool precinct, Berlin, Germany
Jan and Tim Edler, realities united, Germany

Global Holcim Awards 2012 Finalists

Belgium: City hall and civic center recycled from former factory, Oostkamp
Carlos Arroyo, Carlos Arroyo Arquitectos, Spain

Canada: Regional food-gathering nodes and logistics network, Iqaluit, Nunavut
Mason White & Lola Sheppard, Lateral Office, Canada

Chile: Sustainable post-tsunami reconstruction master plan, Constitución
Alejandro Aravena, ELEMENTAL S.A., Chile

Italy: Lifestyle apartments and infrastructure recycled from former freeway viaducts, near Scilla
Philippe Rizzotti, Philippe Rizzotti Architects, France

Malaysia: Ecologically-designed retail and commercial building, Putrajaya
Kenneth Yeang, T. R. Hamzah & Yeang International Sdn. Bhd., Malaysia

Mexico: Urban regeneration master plan, Ciudad Juárez
Jose Castillo, arquitectura 911sc, Mexico

Morocco: Training center for sustainable construction, Marrakesh
Anna Heringer, Architect, Germany

Pakistan: Locally manufactured cob and bamboo school building, Jar Maulwi
Eike Roswag, Ziegert Roswag Seiler Architekten Ingenieure, Germany

Palestine: Sustainable refurbishment of a primary school, near Al Azarije
Claudia Romano, ARCò - Architettura e Cooperazione, Italy

Thailand: Urban agriculture and factory conversion, Bangkok
Isavaret Tamonut, TTH Trading Co., Ltd, Thailand

USA: Energy and water efficient border control station, Van Buren, Maine
Julie Snow, Julie Snow Architects, USA

USA: Zero net energy school building, Los Angeles
Gloria Lee, Swift Lee Office, USA

Global Holcim Awards 2012 Jury

• Enrique Norten, architect, principal and founder, TEN Arquitectos, Mexico/USA
• Maria Atkinson, administrator, group head of sustainability, lend lease and managing director, Sustainability Solutions, Australia
• Aaron Betsky, architect/critic, director, Cincinnati Art Museum, USA
• Mario Botta, architect, principal, Mario Botta Architetto, Switzerland
• Yolanda Kakabadse, administrator, president of WWF International and chair of the advisory board of Fundación Futuro Latinoamericano, Ecuador
• Julia Marton-Lefèvre, administrator, director general, IUCN, France/Switzerland
• Rahul Mehrotra, architect, principal, Rahul Mehrotra Associates, India
• Hans-Rudolf Schalcher, civil engineer, professor emeritus for planning and management in construction at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), Switzerland
• Werner Sobek, civil engineer, director of the Institute for Lightweight Structures and Conceptual Design (ILEK) at the University of Stuttgart, Germany
• Rolf Soiron, administrator, chairman, Holcim, Switzerland

Global Holcim Innovation Prize 2012 Winners

Innovation First Prize ($75,000)
High-efficiency concrete formwork technology, Zurich, Switzerland
Matthias Kohler, Gramazio & Kohler, Architektur und Digitale Fabrikation, ETH Zurich, Switzerland

Innovation Second Prize ($50,000)
Low-cost apartments incorporating smart materials, Hamburg, Germany
Frank Barkow, Barkow Leibinger Architects, Germany

Innovation Third Prize ($25,000)
Efficient fabrication system for geometrically complex building elements, London, United Kingdom
Povilas Cepaitis, AA School of Architecture, United Kingdom

Global Holcim Innovation Prize 2012 Jury

• Harry Gugger, architect, principal, Harry Gugger Studio; professor of architecture, École Polytechnique Fédérale de Lausanne (EPFL), Switzerland
• Markus Akermann, economist, former CEO, Holcim, Switzerland
• Bernard Fontana, engineer, CEO, Holcim, France/Switzerland
• Sujit Ghosh, civil engineer, CEO, Holcim Singapore, Singapore
• Vanderley M John, civil engineer, associate professor, Department of Civil Construction Engineering, Universidade de São Paulo (USP), Brazil
• Roland Köhler, economist, member of the executive committee, Holcim, Switzerland
• Hans-Rudolf Schalcher, civil engineer, professor emeritus for planning and management in construction, Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich), Switzerland
• Stuart Smith, structural engineer, director, Arup Group, UK