Ben van Berkel’s keynote address
The festival commences with a keynote address by UNStudio’s founder, Ben van Berkel. This speech inspired those in attendance, calling attention to the fact that many architectural features and amenities once reserved for the wealthy are more financially accessible to the rest of us than ever. Societies of all affluence levels are demanding improved conditions and healthier environments for their living spaces. In the pursuit of improved well-being for all, technology is being infused with urban planning initiatives, international development schemes, and architectural projects in innovative ways, all to bring about more equality and the democratization of resources.
A socially responsible theme
The keynote fit well with the theme of this year’s World Architectural Festival, which is ‘Housing for Everyone.’ This is quite apropos considering that the three-day event went down in Berlin, which was one of the sites of the so-called refugee crisis last year. The theme was also decided in response to the increasing intensity of manmade and natural disasters occurring around the world, along with the challenges of urbanization and various other forms of human migration. Ben van Berkel’s speech, therefore, was not the last time the ideas of equal access to quality housing were discussed. Wolf Prix, for instance, grappled with the way things have changed in this regard across time.
Patrik Schumacher: Housing as Architecture
Next, Patrik Schumacher invited attendees to approach the need for adequate housing as an architectural task, where aesthetic and form play equal roles as do economy and policy, which have dominated the discussion with regard to providing proper shelter for the masses. His talk largely referenced the exciting work of Zaha Hadid Architects, a prominent firm with buildings around the world, as he is the firm’s current director. This visionary discussion is intended to reinvent current discourses with regard to urban planning and the democratization of innovative spaces.
Hubertus Siegert and Alan Balfour
These two Berlin-based filmmakers presented another keynote address, titled ‘Berlin Babylon Revisited.’ The talk examined the way Berlin has developed architecturally following the fall of the Wall and through to the present. Urban planners and architects have long studied this city, which is known to continually reinvent itself. In conjunction with the theme of the event, they are seeking to discover whether or not the way Berlin has developed and changed can serve as a model for urban planning in other cities.
The World Building of the Year
In addition to a stacked program of accomplished speakers who addressed topics across a myriad of interesting subjects, the World Architecture Festival also featured an award ceremony. One of the major categories of shortlisted buildings is the ‘World Building of the Year.’ More than 300 different projects were considered for this distinction, with entries coming in from 58 different countries around the world. Some firms who were shortlisted in this year’s contest include Lynch Architects, Grüntuch Ernst Architekten, and Tabanlioglu Architects.
Future Project of the Year
The other major category of awards at the festival is the ‘Future Project of the Year.’ Changing the future of schools, Sentia School is one of this year’s finalists. The school’s design is praised for its ability to provide an abundance of different enriching features to children all within limited dimensions in a major urban area. The school is complete with a rooftop garden and a playground, making use of vertical space as it spans across five stories. Projects like this and more are devised with the hope of confronting the challenges faced in human environments in the coming years.
Finally, what do lovers of architecture often find just as appealing? In this case, the answer is interior design. The World Architecture Festival was done in conjunction with Inside Festival, a symposium dedicated to interior design. Professionals from the field from around the world gathered to collaborate and present their ideas in the form of forums, exhibitions, awards, celebrations, and more. It was the perfect chance to network with other creative professionals and to get more visually inspired. It occurred at the same venue as the World Architectural Festival on the same dates.