reporting from the WAF 2017.

This year, the World Architecture Festival (WAF) – an annual event including the award winning ceremony for the best completed buildings and future projects – celebrated its tenth anniversary. Since 2011 WAF has been accompanied by the INSIDE World Festival of Interiors. The decision to organise two different events held at the same time was dictated by the need to differentiate between projects of different scale and nature.

ELEMENT on World Architecture Festival WAF 2017[one-half-first]Held from 15 to 17 November at Arena Berlin, the 2017 WAF and INSIDE festivals are estimated to have been attended by over 2,000 architects and interior designers from all over the world (the event was held in Berlin for the second consecutive time). Presentations of as many as[/one-half-first]

[one-half] 512 shortlisted projects in 32 WAF and 9 INSIDE categories were judged by 93 judges. It is worth noting that one of them was Polish architect Robert Konieczny, the winner of the WAF World Building of the Year 2016 award (Architektura Murator1/2017).[/one-half]


The three-day event also included a conference, where one of the most interesting lectures was that of architect Davide Ponzini and photographer Michele Nastasi, the authors of Starchitecture: Scenes, Actors, and Spectacles in Contemporary Cities(Umberto Allemandi 2012). Explaining the phenomenon of star architecture, they stressed that iconic buildings involved not only prospective gains, and that strikingly different results of the implementation of such projects can also teach a valuable lesson. Similar issues were the topic of a discussion between architect Pierre de Meuron of Herzog & de Meuron (Switzerland) and architecture critic Charles Jencks, concerning the Elbphilharmonie in Hamburg, which had been designed by the Swiss practice. Interestingly, the speakers swapped their roles: Jencks took on the role of the architect, and de Meuron adopted the role of architectural critic.

[one-half-first]What attracted most attention, however, was fifteen inflatable polyester rooms, the Crit Rooms, where architects and interior designers presented their shortlisted projects (completed, future, landscape and interior). Considering their large number, there were fifteen presentations held at the same time. The finalists had a maximum of ten minutes for their presentations, and each of them was followed by an eight-minute discussion[/one-half-first]
[one-half]by the judges. Among the shortlisted projects there were two from Poland: By the Way House, by Robert Konieczny, KWK Promes (Katowice) (Architektura Murator3/2017), and the Office of Września News, by Ultra Architects (Poznań) (Architektura Murator1/2017). All the winners in different categories were selected in the first two days.[/one-half]


On the third day, category winners competed for the main award. Their presentations were held in nine categories, five of them – general: Building, Interior, Landscape, Small Project, Future Project of the Year; and four – additional: WAFX (awarded to future projects that identify key challenges that architects will need to address in the coming years), Best Use of Colour, Iranian Prize (for completed buildings by Iranian practices in the last 3 years), Director’s Special Award. The panel of five super jurors was composed of: Robert Ivy (American Institute of Architects), Nathalie de Vries (MVRDV), Ian Ritchie (Ian Ritchie Architects) and Christoph Ingenhoven (Ingenhoven Architects).

The main award and the title of the World Building of the Year 2017 went to the post-earthquake reconstruction/demonstration project of Guangming Village, Zhaotong, China, by the Chinese University of Hong Kong. The jury appreciated the combined use of new technologies and traditional materials and construction solutions. They also stressed that the science behind the research could be applied directly in other areas prone to earthquakes and suffering from poverty.

[one-half-first]In the context of current changes in approach to housing, it is particularly interesting that the Director`s Special Award went to Superlofts Houthaven in Amsterdam by Marc Koehler Architects, a new co-housing concept aiming to co-create the building and its shared spaces to form a global co-living community. Architects design [/one-half-first]
[one-half]the core structure, a framework of modules resembling building blocks for children, and homeowners customise their apartments according to their own needs and co-create the shared spaces. As summed up by the jury, the concept is “a game changer – a replicable and transferable model which could extend in terms of scale”.[/one-half]


As announced, the next edition of WAF, the world’s largest architecture festival, will be held in Amsterdam (28-30 November 2018).

Jakub Figel, Filip Kurasz