The 2014 Holcim Award winners for North America (l to r): David Benjamin, The Living; Caitlin Gucker-Kanter Taylor and Amy Mielke, Water Pore Partnership;  Kai-Uwe Bergmann, Bjarke Ingels Group; Matthijs Bouw, One Architecture
Courtesy Holcim Foundation The 2014 Holcim Award winners for North America (l to r): David Benjamin, The Living; Caitlin Gucker-Kanter Taylor and Amy Mielke, Water Pore Partnership;  Kai-Uwe Bergmann, Bjarke Ingels Group; Matthijs Bouw, One Architecture

Because the cutting edge in sustainable design is constantly edging forward, building technologies that were deemed innovative a decade ago have become standard in architecture. To celebrate the latest thinking in design performance and efficiency, the Holcim Foundation for Sustainable Construction, based in Zurich, Switzerland, announced the recipients of its 2014 Holcim Awards for North America on Sept. 18. About 250 people attended the awards ceremony, which was held in the Evergreen Brick Works event space—itself a 2008 Holcim Acknowledgement prize winner—in Toronto.

The triennial competition, which began in 2005, recognizes projects that address five aspects of sustainability: progress, people, planet, prosperity, and place. This year, the North American regional program awarded $330,000 to 13 entrants. A total of $2 million will be awarded across five regional competitions—which also include Asia Pacific, Africa Middle East, Europe, and Latin America—and the Holcim Global Awards competition in 2015. The Global Award winners are selected from the gold, silver, and bronze recipients of the five regional competitions.

To qualify for this year’s North American regional program, projects must be unbuilt before July 1, 2013, which was the opening date of the competition’s call for entries. The program does not require that projects are ultimately built, but it does seek projects that are in “an advanced stage of planning,” says Lola Sheppard, a partner at Toronto-based Lateral Office, past Holcim Award recipient, and juror for this year’s competition. However, projects submitted in the Next Generation award category for designers and students under the age of 30 could be more theoretical and present “visionary concepts that contribute to the debate of where architecture and urbanism” are heading, Sheppard says. The projects proposed must be on sites located in North America, but design team members can be from any country.

Globally, the foundation received a total of 6,103 project submissions, 2,514 of which were pre-screened by an external committee as meeting the competition’s requirements. The North American region had 211 entries, 80 of which were in the Next Generation category.

This year’s jurors were: Toshiko Mori, FAIA, principal of Toshiko Mori Architect, in New York; Marc Angélil, senior dean and chair of architecture and design at the Swiss Federal Institute of Technology (ETH Zurich); Alain Bourguignon, Holcim area manager for North America and the United Kingdom; Dana Cuff, CityLab director, UCLA; Guillaume Habert, sustainable construction professor at ETH Zurich; Mark Jarzombek, interim dean at MIT’s School of Architecture; Jeffrey Laberge, associate at JL Richards & Associates in Sudbury, Ontario; Lola Sheppard; and Sarah Whiting, Assoc. AIA, William Ward Watkin professor and dean of architecture at Rice University.

The jury selected three Holcim Award winners, four Acknowledgment winners, and six Next Generation recipients—three more than typical due to the quality of the submissions, Laberge said during the awards presentation.

Gold Award ($100,000): Poreform

Water Pore Partnership

Concerned with the shortage of water in arid regions—specifically Las Vegas in this case—Water Pore Partnership designers Amy Mielke, in New York, and Caitlin Gucker-Kanter Taylor, in Woodbridge, Conn., propose a porous concrete surface system that directs stormwater runoff into underground basins.

Water Pore Partnership

Poured in place with fabric formwork, this new type of urban infrastructure can take on organic shapes and become active public spaces above and below ground. The project “revalues water as civic and cultural presence in the city,” they say. Poreform could also become a modular system that ranges in sizes from parking lots to a single paver. Mielke and Taylor hope to begin prototyping Poreform and re-engage with the city of Las Vegas in the near future.

Silver Award ($50,000): The Big U, Rebuilding by Design

Courtesy Bjarke Ingels Group

Rebuilding by Design is an eight-mile-long master plan that wraps lower Manhattan in a protective ribbon—the Big U—to prevent coastal flooding. A raised berm becomes everything from tiered public seating to park space, an installation wall, and simply an infrastructural barrier. The endeavor is led by Bjarke Ingels, Kai-Uwe Bergmann, and other members of the Bjarke Ingels Group, Starr Whitehouse Landscape Architects and Planners, James Lima Planning + Development, Buro Happold Engineering, and Level Agency for Infrastructure, all in New York; and One Architecture in Amsterdam.

Courtesy Bjarke Ingels Group

The first phase of the project, a one-mile stretch along the New York’s Lower East Side, received a $335 million grant in the Rebuild by Design competition, established by the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development and the Presidential Hurricane Sandy Rebuilding Task Force. The team anticipates beginning construction in 2017.

Bronze Award ($30,000): Hy-Fi

The Living

Led by David Benjamin, The Living, in New York, Hy-Fi is a cluster of towers built from naturally grown and fully compostable mycelium bricks developed using biotechnology, structural engineering, and design computation. As the winning project for the 2014 MoMA PS1 Young Architects Program, Hy-Fi was built, realized, and deconstructed this summer. The bricks are now being composted for use in growing new crops.

The Living

Benjamin says that the project examines how building materials can be useful at the end of their service life rather than construction waste, and that the brick composition can theoretically be engineered to have different material properties, such as strength and lifespan.

Acknowledgment Prize ($25,000): Chrysanthemum Building

Kennedy & Violich

Sheila Kennedy, AIA, and J. Frano Violich, FAIA, principals at Kennedy & Violich Architecture, in Boston, developed an affordable and sustainable housing model for a development in an urban infill site in Boston. The project features four micro-units and six family lofts and integrated mobile app technologies to manage building systems and encourage tenant communication.

Acknowledgment Prize ($25,000): Heritage Reframed


Nader Tehrani and Katherine Faulkner, AIA, partners at NADAAA, in Boston, are renovating and expanding a historical 19th-century structure—in which legendary pilot Amelia Earhart once worked—in the center of Toronto. The building, which will become the new home of the University of Toronto’s John H. Daniels Faculty of Architecture, Landscape, and Design, combines preservation and contemporary sustainable design strategies.

Acknowledgment Prize ($15,000): Divining LA

Arid Lands Institute at Woodubry University

Peter and Hadley Arnold, the founding co-directors of the Arid Lands Institute at Woodbury University, in Burbank, Calif., are developing a digital tool that uses satellite imagery, digital terrain models, and geotechnical datasets to model stormwater runoff in water-stressed environments, such as Los Angeles. The publicly accessible mobile app will model precipitation, soil quality, land use, and groundwater contamination.

Acknowledgment Prize ($15,000): In-Closure

ABF Lab Architects and Engineers

Etienne Feher, Paul Azzopardi, and Noé Basch, founders of ABF Lab Architects and Engineers, in Paris, reintroduces the city of Seattle to its once forest-covered land with a master plan that literally plants a forest in the city. Movable event boxes containing different programs create an interactive wall around the park.

Next Generation 1st Prize ($25,000): Trash for Use

Debbie Chen

Debbie Chen, a project designer for LTL Architects, in New York, proposes a building in the center of New York, or any major city, that collects and processes local waste into its base components for reuse.

Next Generation 2nd Prize ($15,000): Machine Landscape

Kenya Endo

Kenya Endo, a landscape designer at Atelier Dreiseitl’s Singapore location, suggests converting abandoned underground coal mining sites for hydro-pump electricity storage in Greene County, Pa.

Next Generation 3rd Prize ($10,000): Pleura Pod

Beomki Lee

MIT architecture graduate students Beomki Lee, Suk Lee, and Daeho Lee have designed a wall assembly of algae-filled membrane cavities that convert carbon dioxide captured from circulated air into oxygen, allowing a building to essentially breathe.

Next Generation 4th Prize ($7,500): Timber-Link

Jonathan Enns

Jonathan Enns, a designer at Enns Design/SolidOperations, in Toronto, proposes a modular residential system made from cross-laminated timber that can be quickly assembled and deployed for disaster relief.

Next Generation 5th Prize ($7,500): Evolutionary Infrastructure

Mark Turibius Jongman-Sereno

Landscape architecture graduate student Mark Turibius Jongman-Sereno, at Harvard University, real estate development graduate student Mira Irawan, at New York University, and Gensler designer David O’Brien, in Washington, D.C., suggest the concept of adaptive post-occupation of unused infrastructure, such as parking garages, in San Francisco.

Next Generation 6th Prize ($7,500): Latex Formwork

Namjoo Kim

MIT architecture graduate student Namjoo Kim proposes a flexible, lightweight, and reusable formwork system for creating thin concrete panels.